Dozens of priests killed by coronavirus in Italy
They come to bless those suffering the most from the novel coronavirus. And then, more and more often, Italy’s priests die themselves.
The Pope has encouraged Catholic priests to ‘have the courage to go out and go to the sick people’, but their visits to intensive care units have brought them into contact with some of the most serious virus cases.
Like doctors, Italy’s priests come into contact with the disease’s most serious cases.
They are also known to congregate among themselves in close quarters, creating the perfect conditions for contagion.
Bergamo has so many dead that army trucks had to deliver supplies of freshly-made wooden coffins yesterday.
Mortuaries can no longer hold all the bodies and there are fears that the true death toll may be even higher because some victims are never tested.
‘We no longer know where to put the dead,’ the bishop of Bergamo, Francesco Beschi, told the Vatican News site.
Standing and looking at the coffins makes him feel ‘very heavy’, Beschi said.
Like all the other victims, the clergymen are buried without ceremony.
Private funerals are being offered for the deceased priests, as all public religious ceremonies, including wedding and funerals, were banned by the Italian government.
‘It is painful to see the priests fall sick,’ Enrico Salmi, the bishop of Parma, told the Avvenire.
‘Sometimes it happens (to them) out of pastoral zeal. They enter the intensive care unit where, naturally, no one is supposed to go.’
Touched by the plight of the priests of Bergamo, Pope Francis placed a call on Wednesday to Beschi, the parish bishop.
The Argentine-born pontiff has repeatedly called on priests to spend more time visiting the sick.
In a live-streamed Mass last week he prayed that clergymen would ‘have the courage to go out and go to the sick people’.
The pope himself a series of engagements after suffering from a cold during an Ash Wednesday service.
Fears were raised after Francis was pictured hugging and kissing members of the public after speaking with a hoarse voice and blowing his nose in church.
However, the pontiff is thought to have tested negative for coronavirus.
Francis has enjoyed generally good health, although he had part of one lung removed as a younger man.
With 4,634 infections as of Friday, the province had piled up 11 per cent of all of Italy’s cases.
Its population accounts for just 0.2 percent of Italy’s total.