The Church in Venezuela called for national unity following the death of socialist President Hugo Chavez in a Caracas military hospital yesterday after a two-year battle with cancer.
The secretary general of the bishops' conference of Venezuela, Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate Salas, called for unity in order for the country to be able to face the "painful fact" of Chavez's death.
After his death his supporters took to the streets to publicly express their grief.
Elected president in 1999, Chavez was re-elected in October last year to a third six-year term but missed the swearing in ceremony that should have taken place in January as his health deteriorated.
Despite his claim that his "socialist revolution" was based on the teachings of Christ, Chavez was widely criticised for silencing opponents and stifling press freedom, while he habitually styled his opponents "degenerates" and referred to the Catholic Church hierarchy as "devils in vestments".
Above: A supporter of President Chavez prays in a chapel outside the military hospital in Caracas where he died yesterday. Photo: CNS/Reuters