By Vatican News
The sheer numbers of families, migrants and vulnerable people living on the margins of society and in need of humanitarian assistance in Venezuela grow by the day.
According to San Cristobal Bishop Mario Moronta, Vice President of the country’s Catholic Bishop’s Conference, the coronavirus pandemic has compounded the suffering of millions of poor people as it impacts even the most basic charitable activities.
Bishop Moronta told Vatican Radio that members of the Venezuelan Interreligious Social Council are praying together on Wednesday for the end of the pandemic.
Interreligious Social Council
The recently set up Council was established by representatives of Christian churches (Catholics, Evangelicals, Anglicans and Adventists), the Jewish community and a group of social organizations, to provide an inclusive forum that aims to contribute to the mitigation and solution of the serious problems Venezuelan society is experiencing.
At a time in which Latin America has become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, Venezuelan health care institutions crippled by the lack of medical supplies and medicines are unable to cope with the over 4,000 registered infections.
The crisis is striking a country where a quarter of the population needs humanitarian assistance, over 90% of families live in poverty, and where the borders are stormed by thousands of migrants in search of work and basic necessities.
Faith-based organizations assisting the poor
Bishop Moronta said that in the face of the enormous challenges posed by the situation, faith-based organizations are engaged on the frontlines in the name of universal kinship, at the service of the poor.
He said that in an ecumenical and interreligious approach, believers are committed to practicing charity and giving witness of solidarity in the certainty that “all of us are children of the same human family, and all of us believe in God. So, not only with prayer and praise to the Lord, but also in concrete action we are working together for the integral development of the whole of society.“
“Whatever our religious tradition, we are brothers and sisters, we all belong to the same family,” he said.
The Bishop of San Cristobal described the conditions of poverty and hunger as growing more serious every day. He explained that the quarantine measures imposed by authorities to help curb the spread of the virus are adding to the difficulties of those who are in need of basic aid.
“It is not easy to visit people and families to bring them relief,” he said, adding that more than 12,000 Venezuelans are trapped along either side of the border with Colombia, and cannot move because of the restrictions.
“Thank God that the Diocese of Cùcuta has a large aid programme in place with which it is trying to deal with the situation,” he said. But, throughout Venezuela, he continued, church organizations are doing their best to “visit, help, accompany and support the many in need.”
As Venezuela faces this most critical time, Bishop Moronta said the Church is focussing on three main areas: the first is raising awareness regarding the importance of staying healthy, both physically and spiritually; the second, preparing for the post-pandemic period through prayer and refection "as it will surely bring about a shift in lifestyle"; the third, particularly for the Church, the challenge of being ever closer to the people with a sign of hope in the name of the Lord.
Beatification of José Gregorio Hernandez Cisneros
Finally, Bishop Moronta gave thanks for the news of the Pope Francis's approval for the beatification of the Venezuelan layman, José Gregorio Hernandez Cisneros.
The fact that this figure who dedicated his life to the poor and the least, he said, brought joy and hope in a moment in which it is sorely needed.
“To reaffirm, to renew that preferential option for the poor, of which this new blessed was truly an example, in this difficult time for Venezuela,” is particularly significant, he said.
And revealing that in Venezuela Hernandez Cisneros is referred to as "the Doctor of the Poor, precisely because of his commitment and solidarity towards those most in need," Moronta said, “This news engages us all: it will be a great encouragement to be living witnesses of charity and faith,” just as he was.