ROME — A 72-year-old priest in Italy has died from coronavirus after giving up his respirator to a younger patient, whom he did not know.
Parishioners bought a respirator for Father Giuseppe Berardelli, from the town of Casnigo in the northern Italian province of Bergamo, after the priest had tested positive for coronavirus. Hearing there was another, younger patient suffering from the disease and who had no ventilator, Father Berardelli gave him his own.
“Father Giuseppe Berardelli died as a priest,” said one of the healthcare workers in the Saint Joseph retirement home where the priest lived. “I am profoundly moved by the fact that he, as archpriest of Casnigo, freely renounced his respirator to give it to someone younger than him.”
The priest died during the night of March 15 in the hospital of Lovere, in Bergamo, but his story only began to circulate on Italian media on Monday. Like many others who have succumbed to the disease, Father Berardelli already suffered from severe health complications.
The deceased priest is being compared to Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and offered to take the place of another prisoner who had been condemned to death.
In punishment for an escaped prisoner, guards had randomly chose ten prisoners to be starved to death. One of the men chosen began to plead for his life, insisting that he had a wife and family. At that point Father Kolbe offered to take the man’s place, noting that he had no wife, after which the priest was thrown in the starvation bunker, where he died days later.
At least 50 priests have reportedly died with the coronavirus in Italy, many of whom followed the appeal of Pope Francis to go out and assist others during this difficult time, even at the risk of their own lives.
As of Monday evening, Italy has reported 6,077 deaths of people with coronavirus, at an average age of 81, almost all of whom suffered from other serious diseases. Since March 9, Italy has been under a state-imposed lockdown, with its economy at a standstill and citizens confined to their homes.
Author: Thomas D. Williams, Ph. D.