Photo: Undertakers wearing a face mask carry coffin in a cemetery in Bergamo, Italy on March 16, 2020. Credit: AFP via Getty Images
Bergamo, Italy, Mar 19, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Italian dioceses surrounding Milan have reported the deaths of 30 priests during the coronavirus outbreak.
Avvenire, the Italian newspaper owned by the Italian bishops conference, attributes at least 28 of these priests’ deaths to COVID-19, and also notes two additional cases: that of Fr. Guido Mortari, who died of pneumonia before he could get tested, and Fr. Giorgio Bosini, who had a serious underlying medical condition.
All but three of the priests were over the age of 70, and more than half were over 80 years old. The youngest priest to die from coronavirus, Fr. Andrea Avanzini of the Diocese of Parma, was 54 years old.
Eleven of the deceased priests come from the Diocese of Bergamo, where at least 15 other priests have been hospitalized, according to the local bishop
Pope Francis called the bishop of Bergamo on March 18 to express his closeness to the many who are suffering in the diocese.
“Pope Francis has promised that he will carry us in his heart and in his daily prayers,” Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo told his diocese in a video message following the phone call.
“The Holy Father was very affectionate, showing his paternal closeness to me, to the priests, to the sick, to those who care for them and to our whole community. He wanted to ask for details on the situation that Bergamo is experiencing, on which he was very informed,” the bishop said.
“In particular, he asked me to bring his closeness to the sick and to all those who in different ways are doing heroically for the good of others: doctors, nurses, civil and health authorities, law enforcement,” he added.
Bergamo is the home diocese of Pope St. John XXIII, and the bishop is encouraging local Catholics to pray to St. John XXIII for the sick and for their caretakers.
Fr. Remo Rota, an Italian priest who served as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 38 years, died on March 17 in Bergamo after testing positive for coronavirus. He was 77.
Six priests have died of the coronavirus in the Diocese of Parma. Among them was Fr. Franco Minardi, who served the same parish for 70 years, and Fr. Nicola Masi, a Saveriani Missionary of Parma, who once served as a missionary in the Amazon.
The Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio reported the deaths of three priests, including 87-year-old twin brothers, Fr. Mario Boselli and Fr. Giovanni Boselli, who died within a day of each other.
Other Italian dioceses with reported coronavirus deaths are Cremona, Milan, Lodi, Brescia, Casale Monferrato and Tortona.
Private funerals are being offered for the deceased priests, as all public religious ceremonies, including wedding and funerals, were banned by the Italian government.
Nearly 3,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Italy in less than a month after 35,700 people tested positive for the coronavirus as of March 18.