269 priests in Italy were killed by COVID-19 in the past year, since the outbreak of the pandemic. From 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021, diocesan clergy paid their close vicinity to the people, their presence in environments most at risk of infection and the weakness of an advanced age with their own lives. Northern regions registered the highest number of deaths (78%). The regions with the highest death toll are Lombardy ( 88 victims (33%), Emilia Romagna, 36 (14%), Trentino Alto Adige, 28 (10%), Piedmont, 22 (8%) and Veneto, 17 (6%). The central (11%) and southern (11%) regions most affected were Marche, fifteen deceased priests (6%), Campania, twelve (4%) and Umbria, seven (3%). The islands of Sicily and Sardinia combined recorded 14 deaths (10 in Sicily and 4 in Sardinia).
The virus has virtually wiped out the already small turnover of new priestly ordinations (299 in 2020). The magnitude of this tragedy is evident also percentage-wise:
while in 2019 there had been 742 deceased priests, in 2020 the total rose to 958, marking a 30% increase.
Moreover, at the peak of the pandemic, in the period March-April 2020, 248 priests were killed by the virus, almost twice as many (+92%) as those who died in the same time frame in 2019 (129). The situation escalated further at the peak of the second wave: there were 240 deaths between November and December 2020, more than twice as many (+ 101%) as in the previous year (119).
Deaths were recorded in two out of five dioceses. Eighty-six dioceses out of 225 (38%) were hit by the epidemic. Bergamo suffered the heaviest toll with 27 dead priests, including Don Fausto Resmini, the priest of the poor who was remembered by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on the National Day of Remembrance for victims of COVID-19. Milan and Brescia recorded 18 deaths each, followed by Trento (17), Bolzano (11), Cremona (9), Parma (8), Como(7), Padua (7), Piacenza (6), Lodi (6), Genoa (6), Reggio Emilia (6), Udine (6), Pesaro (5), Fano (4), La Spezia (4), Mondovì (4), Bologna (3) and Florence (3), Novara (3), Perugia (3), Salerno (3), Saluzzo (3), Tortona (3), Vicenza(3), Vittorio Veneto (3), Casale Monferrato (2), Caserta (2), Cesena (2), Ferrara (2), Nuoro (2), Palermo (2), Ragusa (2), Ravenna (2), Rimini (2), Senigallia (2), Terni (2), Torino (2), Treviso (2), Vercelli (2). Forty-five dioceses mourned the loss of a priest: Acerra, Acireale, Arezzo, Ariano Irpino, Ascoli Piceno, Asti, Aversa, Bari, Belluno, Cagliari, Caltagirone, Camerino, Carpi, Catania, Cerignola, Cerreto, Crema, Cuneo, Faenza, Fiesole, Gubbio, Imola, Ischia, Ivrea, L’Aquila, Lanusei, Lecce, Macerata, Mantua, Mazara del Vallo, Modena, Noto, Pavia, Piazza Armerina, Pordenone, Prato, Rome, Sessa Aurunca, Sorrento, Teggiano, Ugento, Urbino, Venice, Viterbo.
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