With the number of priests and religious dying from coronavirus-related illnesses rising, Pope Francis offered his prayers for those who died after being infected helping Covid-19 patients and their communities.
At least 50 priests, four nuns and at least 24 doctors have lost their lives and 5,000 health care workers in Italy were known to be infected as of today, 24th March, because of the pandemic.
At the start of his morning Mass, the pope said he was aware of the growing number of doctors, nurses and priests who have died after becoming infected while being “at the service of the sick”.
“Let us pray for them and their families. I thank God for the heroic example that they have given us in their care for the sick,” he said.
Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin told his priests in a letter they are called to a ministry in some ways similar to that of doctors, nurses and psychologists.
‘The people turn to you with trust and hope, seeking help or even just a word of support, of accompaniment,’ he wrote.
Recognising the difficulties and restrictions placed upon them for the safety of themselves and others, the archbishop said they were still shepherds, and Jesus teaches that when confronted by a wolf, a good shepherd ‘is not afraid and does not run away like a mercenary, but defends his flock’.
The Diocese of Bergamo website has a page dedicated to commemorating the more than 20 priests who have died after 6th March.
Meanwhile, the Italian bishops’ conference daily newspaper, Avvenire, has a special section online paying tribute to the many deceased priests – with photographs and biographical details – using the hashtag #pretipersempre or #PriestsForever. After the worst-hit Diocese of Bergamo are the other northern dioceses like Milan, Parma, Cremona and Brescia.
Picture: Two priests stand in front of a crucifix as they celebrate the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) from the roof of their church, Santa Maria della Salute in Naples, Italy, on 20th March 2020. (CNS photo/Ciro Napolipress, Fotogramma/IPA/ABACAPRESS.COMNo via Reuters).