Writes George Conger:
The Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur (Anglican Church of the Southern Cone), the Most Rev. Greg Venables, has applauded the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio saying the Argentine Archbishop is a devout Christian and friend to Anglicans, who has stood in solidarity with the poor against government corruption and social engineering.
In a note released after the election of the new Pope, Francis I, on March 13 Bishop Venables wrote:
“Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.”
In 2010 Bishop Venables joined forces with Cardinal Bergoglio to fight a government bill authorizing same-sex marriage. Cardinal Bergogolio denounced the move saying “this is no mere legislative bill. It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
President Cristina Fernández responded by saying the cardinal’s statement was “really reminiscent of the times of the Inquisition,” and argued that the proposed law “recognizes a pre-existent reality” and “the rights of minorities.”
The night before the vote, Catholic and Evangelical leaders organized a march upon the Congress building in Buenos Aires. Over 60,000 protesters waived orange flags and held aloft placards denouncing the bill while a statement released by march organizers declared, “we won’t vote for politicians who vote for the marriage of homosexuals.”
On 30 June 2010 church leaders testified before the Senate’s legal committee against the proposed law. Bishop Venables urged legislators to reject the government’s bill. Expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would shake and divide the nation, he said.
“If you take the Old and New Testaments” it is plain that “God foresaw marriage as being for a man and a woman.” The Biblical text “leaves no possibility of marriage as anything else,” the bishop said, for marriage is the “sign of the union of Christ and his Church.”
“I can only bless what God blesses” (Yo sólo puedo bendecir lo que Dios bendice), Bishop Venables told the Senate, urging them to take head to the views of the “86 per cent of the country that is Christian”, adding that the government had been wrong not to consult with the people before it began its political push for gay marriage.
Political analysts in Argentina note the battle over gay marriage has little to do with the intrinsic issues, but is part of a wider political battle between President Fernández and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, against the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has been sharply critical of the government’s failures to address corruption and poverty. The split with the church was evident when President Fernández broke a long-held presidential tradition by missing the Te Deum Mass for Argentina’s 2010 Independence Day. Argentina has constitution designates Roman Catholicism as the country’s official religion.
“Kirchner’s epic vision of politics and his need to turn every issue into a mortal combat have driven him to seek the defeat of [Cardinal] Bergoglio and the church,” said Joaquin Morales Sola, a columnist at the conservative La Nacion newspaper.
“Kirchner doesn’t care about the gay community,” said opposition leader Elisa Carrio of the Coalicion Civica party. “Kirchner is using the gay-marriage issue to take on Bergoglio,” she said.
See also: Anglican Accolades for Francis I by the same author.