The Catholic Church in Latin America has seen Over 200 of its Priests Die from COVID-19 virus.
The Catholic Church in Latin America, during 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, saw dozens of its priests die in different countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.
The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference (CEV) announced in a recent statement to the international aid organization “Church in Need” that since the coronavirus began to spread in the country in March 2020 until today 201 of the priests living in Venezuela have contracted this virus and 24 died of it.
“10% of all Venezuelan clergy are infected with the coronavirus. The number of those who died from the virus makes up 11.9% of those infected and 1.2% of all priests in the country, ”according to the CEV statement.
The CEV continues: “Those who work for the church cannot avoid exposing themselves to the COVID-19 virus. The priests, who followed their vocation to serve others, their mission as "soul physicians", knew that despite all the precautionary measures in the churches and despite compliance with all hygiene rules, they ran the risk of becoming infected and even dying . "
The situation of the clergy in Mexico
The Catholic Multimedia Center (CCM) reports that 245 clergy and religious have died from complications caused by the COVID-19 from the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to March 2021. Among the dead are five bishops, 221 priests and religious, 11 deacons and eight nuns.
In a report circulated in February, the CCM said the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, the Archdiocese of Mexico, the Archdiocese of Puebla, the Archdiocese of Morelia, the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosi, the Archdiocese of Toluca and the Archdiocese of Tlalnepantla were most affected.
The situation in Peru
In Peru, too, the situation of the Catholic Church in connection with the pandemic is very serious. Msgr. Luis Armando Bambarén Gastelumendi SJ, was the retired Bishop of Chimbote and former chairman of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference (CEP), who died on March 19. Also in March, Eduardo Peña Rivera, chaplain of the Peruvian Air Force (FAP) died of the coronavirus in Piura, a region in the north of the country.
The most recent death occurred on April 16; Father Dergi Facundo, a young priest who brought comfort through the sacraments to those suffering from the disease in the north of the country.
Colombia laments the loss of a bishop
Colombia also laments the loss of a bishop: Bishop Luis Adriano Piedrahita of Santa Marta died on January 11, 2021. According to information available to the “Church in Need”, ten Jesuit priests who lived in the same house in the Chapinero district of Bogotá died within two weeks at the end of 2020. From April 2020 to January 2021, a total of 12 Jesuits died in the country.
The faithful in the Colombian capital were particularly hard hit by the death of the Franciscan monk Gabriel Gutiérrez Ramírez on April 2nd. The brother was known as the “angel of the marginalized” because of his apostolate with the homeless and for setting up the “Callejeros de la Misericordia” foundation (“Road Workers of Mercy”).
The Bolivian portal “Información de la Comunidad de Bolivia” (information from the Bolivian community Infodecom) stated in mid-2020 that 13 priests had died of COVID-19 by this time. Among them was Bishop Eugenio Scarpellini of El Salto. In February of this year, another five priests in the Archdiocese of Cochabamba died from the epidemic.
Don't Lose Hope
"The life of the Church does not stand still," says Mgr. José Trinidad Fernández, Auxiliary Bishop of Caracas and General Secretary of the CEV, in the latest statement. The auxiliary bishop asked the people not to lose hope, because “God accompanies us in daily life because we are God's temple. God lives in the heart, there can be no place for sadness, disillusionment, disappointment. "
In its communication, the CEV goes on to say that amid the fear and pain caused by the pandemic, believers are looking to “draw near to God in order to comfort the soul. The priests therefore try to respond to this basic need by giving themselves completely in their humanity, being careful to observe the necessary precautions. "
"Despite so many deaths, the priests and religious continue their mission"
“Church in Need” project leader Regina Lynch expressed her grief and appreciation for the work of the church in her statement on the tragic outcome: “Despite so many deaths, the priests and religious continue their mission to accompany those suffering from the coronavirus and to give comfort to the faithful who suffer so much in these countries and in others around the world. ”She also recalled that“ often priests and nuns in their heroic work of devotion and service to those most in need or were infected by worrying about the health of the soul. This is also extremely important, because for us Christians it is not only the health of the body that matters. "
In 2020, the aid organization “Church in Need” supported a total of 146 projects with more than 1.5 million euros to help local churches to alleviate the consequences of COVID in Latin America. The relief organization increased aid for priests and the number of mass intentions and supported more than 7,200 priests.
Source: Aid to the Church in Need/Kath.net/CEV