A COVID-19 positive Italian priest who gave up a respirator for the benefit of a younger patient has died from the lethal virus. Reverend Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, refused to use the life-saving device his parishioners bought him after learning that a younger patient – whom he didn’t know – also needed it, a health care worker told the Italian online news outlet Araberara.
The priest of Casnigo died in a hospital in Lovere, Bergamo, one of the hardest-hit cities in Italy. According to Italian news site Prima Bergamo, he died sometime between March 15 and 16. He was one of at least 60 priests who died in Italy this month, a report from the Catholic News Agency revealed.
According to Vatican News, Berardelli greeted everyone with the phrase “Pace e bene,” which translates to “peace and love” in English.
Clara Poli, mayor of Fiorano where Berardelli served as a parish priest, told Araberara that “he was a priest who listened to everyone, he knew how to listen, whoever turned to him knew that he could count on his help.”
People also described him as an enthusiastic priest, often seen riding his red Guzzi motorcycle.
“He loved his motorbike, and when you saw him go by he was always cheerful,” Poli said.
Berardelli was born in Fonteno in 1947 and became a priest in 1973. In 2006, he became archpriest of Casnigo. As news of his death spread across social media, many people, including his fellow clergymen, praised him for his heroic sacrifice.
“Don Giuseppe Berardelli, patron of those who suffer from coronavirus and all who care for them, pray for us!” tweeted Reverend James Martin. The clergyman also said that Berardelli was a “saint like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who in Auschwitz volunteered to take the place of a condemned man with a family, and was killed.”
Reports say that Casnigo residents applauded from their windows and balconies as his coffin was taken for burial. There was no funeral. On Tuesday, Pope Francis led a prayer for the doctors and priests who died from the virus, “thanking God for their heroic example in serving those who were sick”.
There are no known details about the patient who received Berardelli’s ventilator.
Berardelli lived in northern Italy, where health care professionals have scrambled with limited resources to treat the avalanche of patients battling the coronavirus. The European nation has surpassed China – the origin of the virus – in the number of fatalities. So far, 6,280 people in the country have died from the virus, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Italy has been under prolonged lockdown as the number of infected cases in the country continues to soar. The quarantine also aims to stop the spread of infections in Lombardy, the worst-hit region. These rising figures made Europe the current epicenter of the pandemic.
Father Giuseppe Berardelli is a true hero who gave up his life so another man could live. Now, he is with his Creator. Let us continue praying for peace and comfort for the families of coronavirus casualties and to those who are currently battling against it.