The Venezuelan bishops’ conference will close its college for priests in Rome at least for the 2016-2017 academic year because of the economic difficulties facing the country, the seminary rector said.
The “painful” decision to close the Venezuelan College – a residence for Venezuelan priests doing graduate studies at pontifical universities – was made during the bishops’ general meeting in Caracas in January, Fr Carlos Boulanger Limonchy told Catholic News Service on 7 July.
“We are now in the process of selling material goods and furnishings. The majority of the students will stay at the Spanish College while a few will be sent to parishes here in Rome,” he said.
Venezuela is currently facing a devastating economic crisis, with many people resorting to looting supermarkets due to lack of food and high inflation rates.
In a statement released on 1 July, Archbishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, said, “The Spanish bishops were receptive and have shown their solidarity with us by accepting students who have not finished their studies and by allowing them to live at the Spanish College.”
“The bishops, who had been making considerable efforts in recent years to support this institute of priestly formation, expressed the lamentable inability of continuing to maintain it,” said a note on the seminary’s website.
Despite living far from their homes, the priests are worried about the difficulties facing their country and keep in regular contact with family and friends, Fr Boulanger Limonchy told CNS.
“Our families tell us they don’t have anything to eat,” he said. “It’s a very difficult situation because we have also heard there are people who want to leave but are not allowed to because (the government) doesn’t want to admit that there is a difficult situation.”
Although the “intention of the bishops is that it be closed temporarily,” there is little hope that the Venezuelan College in Rome will reopen anytime soon, he added.
“We still have maintained our library and we have we not sold all the materials belonging to the college in the hopes that it will be reopened. But it will not be in a short time,” Fr Boulanger Limonchy said.