The Italian Bishops have given 10 million euros to Church charity Caritas to help support people affected by coronavirus, and in an effort to help salve the savage human and emotional toll the pandemic is taking on citizens and religious in the country.

– Italian Bishops give ten million euros to Church charity Caritas

The Italian Bishops Conference said in a statement that a 10 million euro donation on its part to Caritas will be distributed to the Church charity’s 220 branches throughout Italy.

The donation will be used to identify the most urgent needs, giving priority to forms of economic support for families already in situations of hardship including, the purchase of basic necessities for families and people in difficulty, support for lonely elderly and frail people, and the maintenance of services for people in situations of extreme poverty, such as canteens with take-away services or sheltered dormitories.

The director of Caritas Italy, Fr Francesco Soddu, said “this extraordinary donation from the Italian Episcopal Conference (IEC) is a concrete sign of hope and comfort for the diocesan Caritas (network).

“In this way, the local Churches will be able to continue the strong dynamism of charity”.

Caritas Italy is also renewing its call for solidarity by inviting everyone to support the initiatives and work of the dioceses and local Caritas that are aiding people in difficulty and in increasingly precarious conditions.

– Bergamo church takes in forty coffins a day of coronavirus dead

The work that Caritas and other Church groups like the Community of Sant’Egidio are doing to attend to the poor hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy is just one part, however, of the Church’s works of charity and solidarity in the COVID-19 crisis.

CNS reported March 13 on the sad story of the Church of All Saints in Bergamo – in Italy’s Lombardy red zone – which is picking up the slack left by the city’s over-full mortuaries and taking in the coffins of people who have died from the virus.

Between March 11 and March 13, the Bergamo church took in at least 40 coffins every day, in preparation not for funerals – since those are banned throughout the country – but instead, for cremation.

51 people died in Bergamo just on March 11, compared to an average of four to five daily before the virus outbreak.

A nearby parish priest confessed on Facebook that he was only going to ring the death knell once a day, however, so as not to further agitate an already depressed and dejected community.

– Nun volunteer visitor: “The dead experienced an encounter with the paternal love of God”

For her part, Sister Anna Maria Marconi, a Sister of the Most Holy Child Mary, is a volunteer in the chaplaincy of a local hospital who is accompanying coronavirus patients as they lie dying, often in the absence of relatives who are barred from their bedside as part of the anti-contagion measures.

“This was a great disappointment”, Marconi told Vatican News March 12 of the ban on visiting patients: “knowing that a person had to face such an important stage in life, that is, death, being welcomed by Jesus’ embrace, but knowing you can’t share even that one tear being shed”.

“I would have before me these eyes, gazing at me, while their face struggled for what little air needed to live”, the sister added of her own face-to-face experience with patients dying of COVID-19.

Unable to speak, the dying were conveying “a look that made me understand I had to pray for them and yet, I am absolutely convinced of this, they experienced an encounter with the paternal love of a God who promised us he would never leave us, never”, Marconi said.

– Testimony of a hospital chaplain: “I am also very worried about the medical staff”

Marconi has had to stop volunteering at the hospital to enter isolation in her community.

A community like that of the mother house of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity in Tortona, out of Milan, which was evacuated March 13 after 24 nuns there were hospitalised for fever and respiratory difficulties, tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19.

The other 17 sisters of the Tortona house and five staff have since been quarantined.

But the work of other Italian religious assisting people in the coronavirus crisis continues on.

Work such as that of Father Giovanni Musazzi, a chaplain at Milan’s Sacco hospital where the Italian COVID-19 “patient zero” was treated.

The priest, a member of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, told Il Sussidario March 13 that coronavirus is now affecting people from every station in society, both young and old, who all have “one thing in common — fear of what they are going through.”

Musazzi is continuing to minister to patients, but only those who are not on oxygen and only behind glass with him accompanied by doctors and wearing a biohazard suit.

“But personally, I am also very worried about the medical staff”, the priest admitted, adding that healthcare workers have been working “for 16 days straight, 12 hours a day, without stopping and without complaining”.

“In fact, they, too, are victims of loneliness”, Musazzi said of the medical workers.

“Many of them have told me how important it is to know that I am there.

“At night, when they go home, we talk a long time on the phone.

“Many have had to send their children away out of fear of infecting them, and they haven’t seen their own parents for weeks”.

– Patriarch of Venice expresses his “closeness, admiration and gratitude” to “heroic” healthcare workers

Precisely it was to healthcare professionals that the Patriarch, this time, of Venice wrote a letter March 12 to express his “closeness, admiration and gratitude” to those “heroic” fighters on the front lines of the public health emergency.

“I write to express to you my closeness, my admiration and my gratitude for what, with the facts, you demonstrate yourselves to be”, Patriarch Francisco Moraglia wrote.

“Your dedication and sacrifice go beyond the duty that ordinarily accompanies your profession… and becomes a testimony of civic responsibility, of human solidarity and – for believers – of authentic, concrete, solidary faith in the most fragile person in difficulty”, the archbishop continued.

“While we, powerless and fragile, remain at home and ask everyone to stay there, with a sense of responsibility, we want to thank you for the immense work you are taking on with shades of the heroic”, Moraglia wrote.

The hope of the Patriarch of Venice is that “at the end of this dramatic phase of emergency”, everyone will find a way to publicly express to health workers “gratitude for the virtuous and heroic interweaving of heart, intelligence, dedication, commitment and passion” that healthcare workers have demonstrated throughout the outbreak to date.

(With reporting from Vatican News)

More on Novena on the coronavirus crisis in Italy:

“Home should always be open to its children”: ‘Pope’s Robin Hood’ defies coronavirus fears, opens church for prayer

Pope’s Rome vicar reverses church closure decree

Following footsteps of Pius XII against Nazis, Rome Church, Pope implore divine aid against coronavirus – updated

Pope sends “caress” to Italian communities hit by virus outbreak as Vatican shuts down St. Peter’s Square and Basilica

Pope calls Bishop of Lodi in Italian “red zone”, encourages faithful to “prayer and responsibility” in outbreak

Italian Military Archbishop thanks soldiers for virus containment duty, encourages citizens “to rediscover beauty of relationships”

L’Aquila cardinal pleads with citizens to come together in times of virus for the common good

Vatican cardinal praises “care for every life” in coronavirus response; Italian Bishops cancel public Masses until April

Francis deplores “abyss of indifference” towards poor, gives 100,000 euros for attention to vulnerable in virus crisis

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.