Coronavirus in Italy Kills 13 Catholic Priests

Undertakers wearing a face mask and overalls unload a coffin out of a hearse on March 16, 2020 at the Monumental cemetery of Bergamo, Lombardy, as burials of people who died of the new coronavirus are being conducted at the rythm of one every half hour. (Photo by Piero Cruciatti …
PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The death toll of Catholic clergy in Italy from Chinese coronavirus has now reached at least 13, as three more priests died this week in less than 72 hours.

The three priests who died most recently all worked in Milan: 82-year-old Father Marco Barbetta, who had been chaplain of the Polytechnic Univeristy, Father Luigi Giussani, 70 years old, the vicar of the parish of San Protaso in via Osoppo, and 63-year-old Monsignor Ezio Fioravante Bisello, vice-rector of the Milan cathedral, local media reported.

In the case of Father Barbetta, who passed away on Tuesday, the death was caused primarily by a previous heart condition aggravated by the coronavirus, as has occurred in a considerable number of other cases.

Father Luigi Giussani, who bore the same name as the founder of the Comunione e liberazione movement, died on Wednesday, while Monsignor Bisello, deputy master of ceremonies at the cathedral, died Thursday.

On Monday, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that at least ten priests had already died in Italy from COVID-19, more than half of them from the hard-hit Diocese of Bergamo.

Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo said Monday that 20 priests in his diocese had been hospitalized and six of them had died.

“The number of priests who have died this week and that of those who are still in a particularly serious situation is very high,” the bishop said in a radio interview.

“We are living this pain by sharing it with that of our communities together with the number of infected people, the sick and a high number of deaths. We are not separated from our community even in the passage of death,” Breschi said.

Three other priests have died in the northern Diocese of Brescia, one of whom tended to the terminally ill in a nearby hospice.

Another of the clerics to succumb to the disease was Monsignor Vincenzo Rini of the Diocese of Cremona, who died on March 14. Rini reportedly ran Cremona’s diocesan newspaper for 30 years.

As of Thursday evening, more than 40,000 people in Italy have been infected with the coronavirus and 3,405 people have died in less than a month. Over 4,000 (4,440) people who previously tested positive for the virus have now recovered.

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