According to one source, there are around twenty million Catholics representing around 75% of the total. According to the CIA Factbook, 2009, 96% of the population is Catholic. There are 34 dioceses including 8 archdioceses, plus separate jurisdictions for those of the Melkite and Syrian rites.
Unlike the military, the Roman Catholic Church has not been a major political force in Venezuelan politics. The Church has never been as prominent in Venezuela as it has in neighboring Colombia.
The Church in Venezuela has been weakened, however, by a traditional lack of vocations. Many priests serving in Venezuela are foreign-born. Before Hugo Chavez's government took power, charismatic Protestant churches, on the other hand, were beginning to proselyte successfully, especially among the urban poor. However, that has diminished in recent years. In the past, the Catholic Church did not have the funds, the personnel, or the enthusiasm to stem effectively this new challenge to its hegemony, but it believed it faced a greater threat with the new government of Hugo Chavez. Even though Chavez identified himself as a practicing Catholic who often used religious imagery in his marathon broadcasts and has visited the Pope, his policies bothered the bishops of the country, especially in the area of education. Besides its universities and colleges, the Church also runs 700 other schools throughout the country, currently subsidized by the state. In 2007, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, the Archbishop of Caracas, called for peaceful demonstrations against any direct government involvement in overseeing the Church's schools. The Church is also critical of the government for wanting to remove religious education from public schools during normal school hours.