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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Italian priests and religious women are among victims of Covid-19

A number of priests and religious women have been among the nearly 2,000 people who have died in Italy because of illness connected with COVID-19.

One member of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity died yesterday, Sunday 15th March, at the age of 88 after she and 23 members of her community in Tortona, near Milan, were evacuated by helicopter on Friday 13th March and hospitalised for fever and trouble breathing. Another unidentified nun was said to be in critical condition, ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported yesterday.

In the hard-hit Diocese of Bergamo, Bishop Francesco Beschi today said that many of his priests have been exposed to the virus. Twenty have had symptoms serious enough to be hospitalised while six have died in the past week.

In another part of northern Italy, Fr Guido Mortari, 83, died on Friday 13th March of pneumonia; his test results for Covid-19 had not come back at the time of his death. He had served as a parish priest in his hometown of Reggio Emilia for more than 40 years.

In Cremona, Mgr Vincenzo Rini, 75, died on Saturday 14th March after being hospitalised because of Covid-19. He was a journalist and directed the diocesan weekly, Catholic Life, for more than 30 years. He also served as president of SIR, the news agency of the Italian bishops’ conference.

The bishop there, 62-year-old Bishop Antonio Napolioni, is still recovering in the city’s public hospital from coronavirus.

In an interview with Vatican News on Saturday 14th March, he said his condition was improving and he urged people to take seriously all precautions and mandates.

Because of the risks associated with the coronavirus, there was no such thing as being too cautious, the bishop said.

“If the situation forces us to take a step back” from all the hustle and bustle or a frenetic lifestyle, then this was an opportune moment, he said.

“We must not be afraid,” he said.

Media in France also reported on Sunday 15th March that French Bishop Emmanuel Delmas of Angers, 65, had tested positive for coronavirus.

He had been in Rome in early March with other French bishops for their ‘ad limina’ visit. They met for two and a half hours with Pope Francis on 9th March in a closed-door meeting in which each individual was seated at least three feet from each other, as per health safety guidelines at the time.

While he was in Rome, Bishop Delmas felt the first symptoms, which continue to be mild, the diocese said in a communique. He and the other 28 bishops who made the trip to Rome were currently in isolation, it added.

Picture: Men in Bergamo, Italy, transport a coffin of a person who died from the coronavirus disease in this photo shot on 16th March 2020. A number of priests and religious women have been among the nearly 2,000 people who have died in Italy because of illness connected with Covid-19. (CNS photo/Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters).