Italian Church Bought Respirator For Coronavirus-Stricken Priest Who Died After Giving It To Younger Patient

A picture of an empty church in Italy.
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An Italian church community purchased a respirator for a 72-year-old priest who had tested positive for coronavirus, hoping it could save the man’s life.

But the priest, Don Guiseppe Berardelli, refused to accept the gift and insisted that it be used to help a younger patient instead. The critical medical equipment was then given to another person — someone who the priest had never met — and Berardelli later died from complications of the virus.

The story was recounted in the Italian news site TGCOM24, which noted that Berardelli was one of 16 priests from the diocese of Bergamo to die from the fast-spreading virus. A health worker from the retirement community where Berardelli lived noted that despite his high stature within the local church, the priest refused to accept the life-saving equipment and chose to hand it over to someone who was younger.

“Don Giuseppe died as a priest. And I am deeply moved by the fact that he, archpriest of Casnigo, gave up his will to assign him to someone younger than he,” the person said in a statement translated from the TGCOM24 story.

Ventilators have been in short supply in Italy, which became the epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak around the world. As The Inquisitr reported, the shortage grew so critical that doctors in some areas had to institute stringent protocol that did not allow patients over the age of 80 — those most likely to die from the virus — to be treated with ventilators and instead focus on younger patients who would have a greater chance of survival.

As the Catholic Herald reported, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of close to 60 priests across Italy, the majority of them being over the age of 70 with underlying health conditions. The report noted that in Bergamo, one of the hardest-hit areas, the diocese opened a telephone service offering free psychological and spiritual counseling. The infected priests include Derio Olivero, the Bishop of Pinerolo who was hospitalized late last week with breathing problems. The Catholic Herald noted that the 59-year-old bishop was listed in stable condition.

Italy has the most coronavirus deaths in the world, surpassing China over the course of the last week. As of Monday, more than 59,000 people tested positive for the virus in Italy and 5,476 had died, due in part to Italy having the oldest average population in the world. The nation suffered its highest single-day death toll over the weekend, with 793 reported deaths on Saturday, though saw this number decline on both Sunday and Monday.