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Pope Benedict XVI Worries About Catholic Church in Venezuela

Pope Benedict XVI has told Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez that he is concerned about religious reforms in the largely Catholic nation.

The pontiff and Mr. Chavez met at the Vatican Thursday.

A Vatican spokesman says Pope Benedict was worried about a proposal to ban teaching religion in Venezuelan schools. He said the pope expressed his hope that Santa Rosa Catholic University can maintain its religious identity.

The pontiff also asked that the nation's health programs "respect life," an apparent reference to abortion, which the church opposes.

The Venezuelan leader assured the pope of his commitment to "overcome every tension in respecting the legitimate rights of all."

Mr. Chavez often quotes from the bible during speeches. But he has clashed with the Catholic leadership in Venezuela, referring to it as a "cancer."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.