Despite calls to isolate and limit travel, many US bishops have called home their seminarians at the North American seminary in Rome.

Sources close to the North American College (NAC) have said that the college has received calls from US bishops ordering the “return” of their students in Rome.

This defies a global warning to limit travel and the Italian nation-wide shutdown.

Though many foreign seminarians based in Rome left the country before the travel ban was called, sources say that US bishops have been defying public health warnings and have led to what one person said were “many, many American seminarians” going back to their local dioceses.

The NAC refused to comment on the order, saying that they had been “advised” to limit their contact with the press and communication of information.

Though it is as of yet unclear which dioceses called for the return of their priests, a source in Washington D.C. said that Wilton Gregory was not one of the bishops that sent out such an “order”.

This move, which came from US-based bishops and not the American seminary itself, contradicts the NAC’s own policy.

On March 13, Fr. Adam Park, the vice rector of the NAC, in an internal memo, warned of the dangers of sending the seminarians back home, echoing the concerns of many health and political officials globally.

Public health experts have warned that any travel can further the spread of Covid-19, informally known as “Coronavirus”. To limit the spread of the virus, the Italian government has imposed criminal penalties for those who violate the nation-wide shutdown.

The news of the retreat of the US seminarians has been kept on the downlow. When contacted by Novena, the NAC media representative Fr. David Schunk said that “we’re not commenting right now” on the return of the seminarians.

“We have decided not to do any media comment regarding the Coronavirus at this time”, said Fr. Schunk in an email.

Several vocational directors connected to the NAC have said that they have been “asked” not to divulge information.

Even though few have publicly lamented the policy of silence that has been adopted by the NAC, some have said that they are wary it might contribute to worsening the problem.

In the US, president Donald Trump has issued a travel ban for anyone coming from Europe, with the exception of US citizens – even though they are discouraged from exposing both themselves and others to potential risks of contamination.

More on Novena on the coronavirus crisis:

Pope makes Rome “pilgrimage” for end to coronavirus “plague”, “consolation and comfort” of victims, healthcare workers

Unprecedented: Due to coronavirus, papal Easter events to be held without physical presence of faithful

Coronavirus in Italy: Bishops give 10 million euros to Caritas to help salve savage human, emotional toll


Daniele Palmer is a freelance journalist. He studied history in London and is preparing to do a PhD at Cambridge on French Political Thought. He currently works from Rome as the Vatican correspondent for Where Peter Is: