Time.news – Soon we will have to talk about a real lost generation of priests for the Italian Church. Swept away by the covid, which highlighted their role in society but presented a far greater account of the same vocation crisis that has plagued national Catholicism for years.
269 priests died due to Covid-19 in Italy in the first year of the pandemic, notes Sir, the agency of the Italian bishops,
From 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021, the most affected regions were those of the North (78% of the total): leading the ranking is Lombardy with 88 deaths (33%), Emilia Romagna with 36 (14%), Trentino Alto Adige with 28 (10%), Piedmont with 22 (8%) and Veneto with 17 (6%).
Following, among the Regions of the Center (11%) and the South (11%) with the highest number of victims, there are the Marche with 15 dead priests (6%), Campania with 12 (4%) and the ‘Umbria with 7 (3%). The two islands add up, overall, 14 deaths (10 in Sicily and 4 in Sardinia).
The contagion has almost eliminated the albeit modest turnover guaranteed by the new orders, which were 299 in 2020. And the extent of the tragedy that took place can also be measured in percentage terms.
If in 2019 the dead priests were 742, in 2020 the total has risen to 958 with an increase of 30%. In the two periods when the pandemic hit the hardest, the figures were even worse.
In the period March-April 2020 248 priests died, or almost double (+ 92%) of those who disappeared in the same period of 2019 (129). Even worse in the climax of the second wave: the 240 deaths between November and December of 2020 are more than double (+ 101%) of those of the previous year (119).
People die in two out of five dioceses. In fact, 86 dioceses out of 225 (38%) are affected by the infection. Bergamo is the one that paid the highest price in terms of mourning with 27 deceased priests: among them there is also Don Fausto Resmini, the priest of the last who was remembered by President Mario Draghi on the occasion of the National Day in memory victims of the epidemic.
Among the most affected dioceses also Milan and Brescia (18 deaths each), Trento (17), Bolzano (11), Cremona (9), Parma (8), Como (7), Padua (7) but also Lodi Genoa, Reggio Emilia, Udine, Pesaro, Fano, La Spezia, Mondovì, Bologna, Florence, Novara: all between 6 and 3 priests killed by the infection. Which also hit hard Saluzzo Salerno, Perugia, Tortona, Vicenza, Vittorio Veneto, Caserta, Cesena, Ferrara, Palermo Ragusa and Ravenna. In all, 92 dioceses complain of at least one death, from north to south: there is no situation, environment, condition that has not been reached by the disease.
The memory of the Cardinal
“In the time of the pandemic, priests really expressed the beautiful face of the friendly Church, which cares for others. They gave an authentic example of solidarity with everyone. They were the living image of the Good Samaritan, contributing not a little to making the Church is credible “. These are the words of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve and president of the CEI in the preface of the book “Covid-19: priests on the front line”. The author of the book is Riccardo Benotti, author of the volume in which he recounts the human and pastoral experience of many priests.
Bassetti also recalled how he himself was hit by the coronavirus a few months ago, risking death.
“I too – he said in the homily on Easter Eve – ran the risk of having to leave this world and I was afraid. There are so many things that every day can make us fear, and they are like so many heavy stones on the path of our existence. But do not be afraid: the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father, repeats to us: ‘Do not be afraid’ ”.