Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 15, 2021 / 13:45 pm (CNA).
The Venezuelan bishops’ conference published new statistics showing that since the beginning of the pandemic 45 priests and four bishops have died from COVID-19.
The conference noted that “in the midst of the global crisis caused by the pandemic, priests are not exempt from the risks of contracting COVID-19,” as they carry out their ministry.
“At a time when people more earnestly seek the comfort of the spirit and closeness to the faith … priests offer their service to the Church,” the conference said.
The conference published current figures on the priests who were infected and died from the deadly virus. In the report, they noted that between March 2020 and Dec. 13, 2021, 439 priests were infected with COVID-19, a figure that represents 20.77% of the total clergy in the country.
During this period, 45 priests have died, or 10.25% of all priests infected with the virus, and 2.13% of all Venezuelan clergy.
Of those infected, 26 were bishops and of these 22 prelates recovered; the other four died in 2021.
The four bishops who died were Archbishop Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje, who served as the bishop of the Diocese of Trujillo until his death on January 8; Bishop César Ortega, who died on April 9; Archbishop Tulio Chirivella, Archbishop Emeritus of Barquisimeto, who died on April 11; and Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop Emeritus of Caracas, who died on Sept. 23.
The bishops’ conference said that the Church in Venezuela currently has 2,068 priests. Siixty are bishops and of these 41 are titular bishops, three are auxiliary bishops, and 16 are bishops emeritus.
The dioceses with the greatest number of priests are San Cristóbal (208), Trujillo (154), Barquisimeto (148), Mérida (127), Caracas (121), the conference reported.
The bishops’ conference said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic “it has urged the entire population to comply with the guidelines and recommendations in the field of biosafety” to prevent contracting the virus.
The conference also stressed that taking proper care of oneself, the family and the community “is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Finally, the bishops’ conference exhorted the faithful to “increase their trust in God in times of a health emergency” and encouraged them to continue praying from the Word of God, “especially in the family, the Domestic Church,” since prayer “is an expression of the faith and hope that we need to strengthen.”