Sixty Italian priests have died amid country’s coronavirus pandemic and Pope’s call for them to be brave enough to attend the sick
- Among Italy’s 5,476 dead are at least 60 priests who tested positive for the virus
- Pope Francis called on priests to ‘have courage to go out to the sick’ this month
- In Bergamo, in northern Italy, 20 diocesan priests were reported to have died
Some 5,476 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus across the nation, with more than 59,000 cases of the virus confirmed.
Among the dead are at least 60 priests, the majority of whom were over the age of 70, the Catholic Herald reported.
During a Mass in early March, Pope Francis, 83, called on Italian priests to ‘have courage to go out to the sick’ amid the rapidly growing pandemic.
‘We pray to God also for our priests, so they have courage to go out to the sick, bringing the strength of the Word of God and the Eucharist,’ he said.
‘To accompany the medical workers and volunteers in the work they are doing.’
The names of 51 diocesan priests who passed away after contracting coronavirus were published by the Avvenire newspaper on Sunday.
The publication also noted that a further nine deaths had been reported in religious communities across Italy.
Some of these priests had underlying health conditions, it was said, and the youngest to die was 53-year-old Paolo Camminati – the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Piacenza.
Five further priests who tested positive for COVID-19 have also reportedly passed away in the same city.
‘It is a tough trial. We are dismayed. We feel great suffering,’ Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza-Bobbio said.
‘It is a darkness that we must face, but with the hope that God never abandons us, that he himself has gone through all the suffering to overcome it.’
Bergamo, in northern Italy, has been hit hardest by the virus with reports of 20 diocesan priests passing away, Aleteia reported.
It was also said 17 more from the area had been taken to hospital with two in intensive care after being diagnosed with the deadly COVID-19.
Other dioceses which have lost priests to coronavirus include Parma, Cremona, Milan, Lodi, Brescia, Casale Monferrato, Tortona, Trento, Bolzano, Salerno, Ariano Irpino, Nuoro, and Pesaro.
‘It is painful to see the priests fall sick,’ Enrico Salmi, the bishop of Parma, said. ‘Sometimes it happens [to them] out of pastoral zeal. They enter the intensive care unit where, naturally, no one is supposed to go.’