The presence of the coronavirus has already been recorded in Venezuela, with over 70 people so far testing positive for Covid-19. The country has already shut its borders and imposed an obligatory social quarantine since 16 March. It is a situation that poses a great threat to a population that is already more vulnerable, given the deplorable state of the Venezuelan hospital system.
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has also taken preventative measures, including the suspension of Holy Mass with a congregation.
“This is a difficult moment and a trial, from which we will emerge victorious, thanks to our faith and hope, which must now be expressed in works of charity and solidarity. And so we invite all our brothers and sisters within our nation to draw closer to God. During these times of a healthcare crisis we must remind ourselves that the Lord is in our midst and will not abandon us. He is the Rock who saves us.”
So runs the statement by the bishops, which was published on 15 March. The empty streets in Venezuela are a sign not only that people are observing the quarantine rules but also of the grave concern among the people about the consequences that could result if the disease spreads among the population.
A doctor working in one of the main hospital centres in the country, who asks not to be identified, has told ACN that “the Venezuelan hospital system is not ready for the great emergency that could result from numerous people being infected by Covid-19. The precarious situation of the hospitals and the shortage of medicines is already well known throughout the world.”
Given the shortage in Venezuela of testing equipment to determine if people have been infected by the coronavirus, it is impossible to have any real idea of how many Venezuelans are in fact victims of Covid – 19.
There is likewise great concern among those members of the population who have to work in order to earn a living and feed themselves, and yet who cannot work on account of social isolation. “I don’t know how long we will have to put up with the quarantine, but if the virus doesn’t kill us, we will die of hunger instead”, said Ester Chacón, a small trader.
On Sunday 22 March the 150-plus priests of the diocese of San Cristobal were asked by their bishop, Mgr Mario Moronta, to ring their church bells at 12 noon and – while observing the self-isolation rules – to bring the Blessed Eucharist to the doors of their churches and “from there to bless the whole city, the whole country, the neighbouring country of Colombia and the whole world, calling on God to free us from this pandemic.”
At the same time Bishop Mario Moronta called on the authorities to “guarantee its citizens safe access to food and medicines, to medical care and also to ensure there are no power cuts or shortages of water and other essential services. We also call on them to take note of the immoral practices of certain persons who are exploiting the health emergency and unreasonably raising the prices of essential commodities for all the people. Those who are behaving in this manner have no fear of God”, he added.
The international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation ACN International has funded a number of aid campaigns for the Church in Venezuela. During 2019 it gave over 1 million Euros in aid – for the support of priests and religious, for formation and pastoral care and for various emergency aid projects such as food kitchens, boreholes and electricity generators.