Venezuela's Catholic church warned the government Monday it would be "morally unacceptable" to override the constitution amid an intensifying crisis over President Hugo Chavez's health.
The church weighed in with four days to go before Chavez, who is in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery, is supposed to be sworn in to a new six year term.
His vice president has argued that the swearing in can be delayed indefinitely, calling it a 'formality,' and that Chavez's current administration can continue in office until a new one can be sworn in.
The opposition, however, insists his term ends on January 10 under the constitution and a new one cannot begin until he is sworn in. One opposition leader has called for street protests if the government delays the inauguration.
The Venezuelan bishops conference said Monday the constitution must be respected.
"At stake is the good of the country and the defense of ethics. To alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable," the conference said in a statement.
The church said the president's prolonged sickness "puts at grave risk the political and social stability of the nation."
It said the public was "confused, and a good part of it angry," because not a single medical report on his condition has been released.
"The government has not told the people the whole truth, which it has the full right to receive with certitude; it has only communicated, with evident difficulty, its political truth."