Migrants in Milan are mourning the loss of their priest “father and friend”, Father Giancarlo Quadri, to COVID-19.

– More than just a number: a model priest and missionary

Father Giancarlo, the head of the pastoral care of migrants in the archdiocese of Italy’s second-largest city, became this Sunday one more of the more than 15,000 people around the world to date who have lost their lives to coronavirus, as Vatican News reported.

But to the migrant community in Milan, Father Giancarlo was always more than just a number, and even more than a model priest who gave his life to his last breath together always with his flock.

The 76-year-old priest had never been scared off by sickness or poverty, having been a missionary in Zambia, the UK and Belgium.

But this weekend, COVID-19 finally did what human misery could never do: take away the warm smile of Father Giancarlo, and his reputation for listening, decisiveness, empathy with those most in need and his bravery in reaching out to the poorest.

– “Pray, pray, pray”… “All will be well”

It’s not just the new arrivals in Milan, however, who have lost, in the death of Father Giancarlo, their great guidiing light.

The entire city has been left worse off by the departure of the priest, who ever since the first great influx of migrants in the 90s pointed the way forward to a truly multicultural society, never tiring, as he did, of preaching the virtues of integration, mutual respect and ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

An aficionado of boisterous African and Latin American singing and dancing in Mass, and a devotee of Peruvian ‘Lord of Miracles’ – whose procession now rings around Milan’s streets on his feast day, thanks to the priest’s initiative – Father Giancarlo spoke both Spanish and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines.

But his last words last week to the priest who took over from him caring for migrants in Milan were simply: “Pray, pray, pray”.

Sentiments as eloquent as his last post on Facebook: a child’s drawing of a rainbow with a big heart and the phrase: “All will be well”.

– “He taught us that in difficult times the only thing we have is faith and prayer”

“Today my words are dedicated to you, Father Giancarlo: this is news we never wanted to hear. Today there is rejoicing in heaven, because a great warrior has arrived who unconditionally loved Jesus and Mary, who always taught us that in difficult times the only thing we have left is faith and prayer”, wrote on Facebook, after his death, one of the faithful of the great priest defender of migrants.

“Today, Almighty God, we are in mourning, the person who trusted us immigrants has gone. He accompanied us in each reading of the Holy Bible, taught us to be united in prayer, all together; you made of every Sunday Mass a special moment”, wrote another.

Perhaps the most touching tribute to Father Giancarlo, however, was this prayer also posted on social networks:

“May God receive our great brother in his arms, who surely will always accompany us from wherever he is. A hug for your sister, Pinuccia; may the Lord grant her serenity. All united in prayer”.

More stories on Novena on the COVID-19 pandemic:

Francis warns businesses over COVID-19: “It’s not the time to fire people, it’s the time to welcome them”

Santa Marta Mass, 23/3: Pope prays for economic victims of COVID-19, urges “perseverance and courage”

Pope announces worldwide prayer Wednesday, special blessing Friday for end to COVID-19 plague

On COVID-19 frontlines, brave Italian nuns rediscover meaning of vow to give lives for sick

‘Good news’ on the COVID-19 front: meet the hero priests going beyond the call of duty


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.