‘Unbelievable’: Venezuela Shortages Move Far Beyond Just Toilet Paper

In this May 29, 2013 photo, a Eucharistic Minister serves communion during Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo: AP)

CARACAS, Venezuela (TheBlaze/AP) — Amid Venezuela’s growing scarcities, not even the Roman Catholic Church has received a dispensation.

According to church officials, shortages and restrictions are causing a lack of crucial ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to produce communion wafers.

National church officials are currently asking churches to ration their wine and wafers “during this emergency,” Reuters reports.

“We only have enough for two months,” said Archbishop Roberto Luckert, a spokesman for the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference.

The church’s concerns echo those of Venezuelans in general, who have struggled to find basic goods like toilet paper and staple food items like milk, sugar and cooking oil.

Economists say the shortages stem from the socialist government’s controls on the prices of some goods and on foreign currency, which makes it hard for producers to pay for things they need to import.

But President Nicolas Maduro blames the shortages on hoarding and says anti-government forces are trying to destabilize the country.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, left, and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales show giant loafs known as “Pan de Arani” during Maduro’s welcoming ceremony in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Sunday May 26, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Venezuela has maintained strict currency controls since 2003, creating a black market that now sells dollars at more than triple the official rate of 6.3 bolivars. Falling oil exports and foreign investment have also helped dry up the dollar supply.

The church is considering asking the government for access to dollars, but it hasn’t made a formal request so far, Luckert said.

The shortage of wheat flour has compounded the problems for the church, because the host, or wafer, administered during Holy Communion must be made of wheat. The wafers are made by nuns in convents and parish houses.

“Sometimes we spend days trying to get two or three bags,” said Sister Maria de los Angeles, a 49-year-old nun shopping in a small grocery store in Caracas.

Though the government has announced mass imports of basic food items and toilet paper, many products seem to run out shortly after they hit the shelves.

Liliana Escobar, a 32-year-old housewife, was among those lined up this week outside store rumored to have received a fresh shipment of toilet paper.

“On top of losing hours in order to buy four rolls of paper, now we won’t even be able to receive communion as God commands,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”