Rome, Italy, Apr 2, 2020 / 13:00 pm
Bishops throughout Italy visited cemeteries last week to pray and offer Mass for the souls of those who died after contracting the coronavirus. Among the 13,915 coronavirus deaths in Italy, at least 87 have been priests.
“Hear Lord the pain that rises from this land that we still believe blessed … We believe that in the death on the cross of your Son Jesus and in his burial, every cross, every death, every burial is redeemed from abandonment, from darkness, from nothing,” Bishop Francesco Beschi said March 27 in a cemetery in Bergamo, a hard-hit northern Italian city where 553 people died in March.
In Beschi’s diocese of Bergamo alone, 25 diocesan priests have died after contracting COVID-19.
“This week I went to the cemetery with the desire to become a voice of prayer and pain that has no chance to express themselves and remains enclosed not only in our homes, but above all in our hearts. In some ways … it is as if our cities had become a large cemetery. Nobody is seen anymore. Disappeared. We can see each other through the media and social media, fortunately, but the city is deserted,” Beschi said in his homily via livestream March 29.
Italy has entered its fourth week of a national mandatory lockdown. On April 1, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that the country’s quarantine deadline has been extended to April 13, but noted that the lockdown will not end until “the curve subsides.”
There have been more than 115,000 documented cases of coronavirus in Italy and 13,915 mortalities as of April 2 according to the Italian Ministry of Health.
Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops conference, reported a total of 87 priest mortalities as of March 31. However, this number could be higher; some religious orders, such as the Xaverian Missionary Fathers in Parma, did not test the 16 elderly priests who died in their residence last month.
Three quarters of the diocesan priests reported dead were over the age of 75. The youngest priest to die was 45-year-old Fr. Alessandro Brignone of Salerno. The Southern Italian priest had participated in a Neocatechumenal Way retreat in early March after which many participants tested positive for COVID-19.