A priest has been murdered in Venezuela as the crisis gripping the country worsens.
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 Monday (9th July).
His death was confirmed in a communiqué from the Diocese of Barquisimeto, in the north-east of the country.
Both Church leaders and Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need have appealed for prayers for his soul.
While the motive for the crime appears to have been robbery, a number of priests and religious have been attacked over the last few years, in what seem to have been targeted assaults.
During this time, Venezuela has seen mass protests over food shortages caused by the ongoing economic crisis, and May’s controversial elections.
Last March the Colombian Foreign Ministry expressed sadness when Colombian priest Father Diego Bedoya Castrillón was murdered.
Father Castrillón had his throat slit during an attack on a Franciscan convent in Aragua, where he was living.
Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, expressed his concern at the dire political and economic situation in the country during an address to the ordinary assembly of the conference on Saturday (7th July).
“The people are speaking out… [they are] raising their voices each day.”
The archbishop said: “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.”