Venezuela’s Chavez says he seeks friendly relations with Catholic Church leaders

Caracas, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez says he’s seeking friendly relations with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.

Their dealings have been tense in the past. Church representatives have accused the socialist leader of becoming increasingly authoritarian and Chavez has strongly criticized Cardinal Jorge Urosa, saying he has misled the Vatican with warnings that Venezuela is drifting toward dictatorship.

Chavez said Wednesday that he hopes relations improve between his government and representatives of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference.

Chavez spoke a day after Vice President Elias Jaua met with members of the conference.