, 15 March, 2020 / 8:43 PM
Seven priests have reportedly died in Italy of the COVID-19 coronavirus. They are the first priests known to have died from the virus, now a global pandemic which has struck Italy more gravely than nearly any other country in the world.
Among them Monsignor Vincenzo Rini was a priest of the Diocese of Cremona, close to Milan, and near Italy’s epicenter of the pandemic.
In addition to Rini, 6 priests in the Diocese of Bergamo have reportedly died of the coronavirus, according to bergamonews.it.
Bergamo's Bishop Francesco Bechi told Italian journalists that in addition to six priests in his diocese who have died of the virus, 20 others have been hospitalized.
Bergamo, a city northest of Milan, has been identified as the region most afflicted by infections of coronavirus in the country.
Msgr. Rini ran Cremona’s diocesan newspaper for 30 years, and was at one time the president of the Italian bishops’ news agency. He was also a novelist, and a noted literary expert, who served as the Church’s liaison to the Cristina di Savoia Cultural Congresses, which aim to promote Christian culture in Italy.
In Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, journalistic colleagues of Rini wrote that the priest “represented an open window to hope, the virtue that had always characterized his life.”
He will be buried in the chapel of the diocesan cemetery in Cremona. Bishop Antonio Napolioni of Cremona, himself recovering from coronavirus, expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the priest.
More than 21,000 people in Italy have been infected with coronavirus, and nearly 1,500 have died.
Priests in other countries have also been afflicted with coronavirus. Earlier this month, a French priest was hospitalized with the virus, and last week a priest in Peru was among the first patients to be hospitalized for coronavirus in that country.
This story is developing and has been updated after publication.
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