VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez has accused Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of being an "imperialist clown".
The criticism came after the Honduran cardinal warned of increasing authoritarianism in Mr Chavez's government.
Cardinal Rodriguez is considered a possible papal candidate, or papabile, for future conclaves.
Mr Chavez called him a "parrot of imperialism ... this time dressed as a cardinal".
He said: "That's to say, another imperialist clown."
The cardinal had said that Mr Chavez thought "he's God and can trample upon other people".
Mr Chavez has in the past criticised the Pope as well as Venezuelan Church leaders, whom he described as "liars" and "pervertsfor supporting opposition parties, and for accusing the Chavez regime of stripping away individual freedoms.
President Chavez has also castigated the Venezuelan Church for not concentrating more upon its members. Mr Chavez is renowned for his short temper.
Ricardo Banegas, a spokesman for the Church in Honduras, said the Venezuelan president's comments were "unfortunate", and that they "reveal his desire to... represent himself as the only true and absolute figure that exists".