Third priest shot dead as violence escalates
The extremely grave situation for priests in Venezuela continues to be one of the major concerns of ACN.
Yet another priest has been murdered in Venezuela in the wave of violence that has swept across the country. Father Irailuis García of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima was shot three times by intruders who stole his van in the grounds of his presbytery on Tuesday 9 July. His death was confirmed in a communiqué from the diocese of Barquisimeto, in the northeast of the country, which at the same time appealed for prayers for his soul.
Owing to the lack of reliable information, it is difficult to give an exact figure for the number of priests and religious who have been murdered since the outbreak of this terrible wave of violence in Venezuela. In March 2017 the Colombian Foreign Minister expressed his sadness at the murder of Colombian Father Diego Bedoya Castrillón, who was murdered in Aragua, Venezuela, during an attack on the convent of the religious community where he was staying. In 2016 Father Darwin Antonio Zambrano Gámez was murdered in a knife attack in the city of San Cristóbal, in the southeast of the country, during what was presumed to be a robbery while he was engaged in sporting activities. In September 2014 Father Reinaldo Alfonso Herrera Lures, a military chaplain to the Venezuelan Armed Forces was the victim of a kidnapping and subsequent murder in September 2014. That same year, two Salesian brothers – Brother Luis Heriberto Sánchez, a lay brother and a priest, Father Jesús Erasmo Plaza – died of their wounds at the Don Bosco College in Valencia, Venezuela after being severely beaten during a robbery in the building.
Sources close to ACN likewise confirmed that at least three priests have died in the country since the beginning of 2017 for lack of vital medical assistance, while a further 10 have been forced to leave the country, having no other possibility of receiving treatment for their chronic medical conditions, including cancer and diabetes.
This extremely grave situation faced by priests in Venezuela at the present time continues to be a major cause of concern for the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which has launched aid appeals in a number of different countries.
For his part, Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, who is also president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, also expressed his concern at the situation in the country during a recent address to the ordinary assembly of the conference given on Saturday 7 July. “Following the presidential elections, which have generated more doubts than certainties, and given the present situation of the country, the people are asking a number of questions, such as: What are we going to do now? What is the path to be followed? And even down to one of the most frequently repeated statements: We are living without hope in the face of an unjust situation that is suffocating us… Faced by this situation, the people are speaking out, are hurting, raising their voices each day. Our people are speaking out. The thousands of protests that are taking place every day, even if they are not being reported in the media, are testimony to the great discontent that they feel at being subjected to arbitrary measures which characterise the system and point to the irrationality and incompetence of those who have the duty to take decisions in public matters. These protests point to the failure of a model that the people have been denouncing loudly and for many years.”
The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) calls for an urgent campaign of prayer and support for Venezuela.
Monica Zorita – ACN International