The Italian bishop of a missionary region of Ethiopia is the first Catholic bishop known to have died of the global coronavirus pandemic. He died March 25.

Bishop Angelo Moreschi, 67, was the leader of Ethiopia's Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella, a missionary region of 25,000 Catholics in the western part of the country. He died Wednesday in the Italian city of Brescia, in the Lombardy region that has become the European epicenter of the pandemic.

A member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order, Moreschi had been a missionary in Ethiopia since 1991. He was ordained a bishop in January 2010.

"The Salesian community mourns the death of the Apostolic Vicar of Gambella (Ethiopia), namely Msgr. Angelo Moreschi, SDB, who died today, March 25, in Brescia (Italy) due to the coronavirus," the Salesians of Don Bosco said in a statement released through the order's information bureau.
The secretary general of Ethiopia's bishops' conference announced the news in the country, announced conveying "deep condolences to the Clergy, religious, bereaved family and the lay faithful in the Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella."

To the mourning people of the Gambella vicariate, the country's bishops pledged the "closeness and prayers of members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia and the entire Catholic Church in Ethiopia. May his soul rest in peace."

Bishop Moreschi was renowned in Ethiopia for his pastoral ministry to the service of young people and the poor. In the local dialect, he was afforded the title "Abba," meaning "Father."

"In his mission as prefect and then as apostolic vicar, he continued to embody the Salesian focus in helping children, accompanying them by his practical spirit and his strong apostolic zeal," the Salesians of Don Bosco stated.

"In his visits to the villages, they still remember when the Salesian arrived with a battered SUV - or by motorboat in the villages along the Baro river when the roads were flooded - and he immediately began to distribute multi-vitamin biscuits to malnourished children."

Bishop Moreschi died "after serving the young, the poor and his flock of souls as a Salesian for 46 years, as a priest for 38, and as a bishop for over 10," the Salesians said.

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More than 60 priests have died in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 21,000 lives globally. Several bishops have contracted the virus.

This story was first reported by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.