Rome’s Cardinal Vicar, Angelo De Donatis, is ill with COVID-19. He is the first Cardinal confirmed to have the virus.
A statement from the Rome Vicariate late Monday afternoon said Cardinal De Donatis began showing symptoms earlier on Monday, and was given a test, which came back positive. His Eminence has been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital with fever, though the statement says his general condition is good. The statement also says he has already begun an antiviral therapy, reports that his closest collaborators have gone into self-isolation.
“I, too, am experiencing this trial,” Cardinal De Donatis said in the statement. “I am calm and confident, I entrust myself to the Lord and to the support of all your prayers, dear faithful of the Church of Rome.” Cardinal De Donatis went on to say that he is living this moment of trial as an opportunity to share the suffering so many others are experiencing. “I offer my prayers for them,” he said, “for the whole diocesan community, and for the inhabitants of the city of Rome.”
On Sunday, Cardinal De Donatis celebrated Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love.
New details have emerged, meanwhile, regarding the testing and other safety protocols implemented in the wake of a coronavirus scare that reached the papal residence last week. A test for coronavirus administered to an official of the Secretariat of State resident in the Domus came back positive.
A statement from press office director Mateo Bruni on Saturday had already said that the official had been isolated as soon as he showed symptoms, and confirmed that he had tested positive for coronavirus. The statement further specified that he had been taken to hospital where he remained under observation. The statement said the Domus and areas inside the Secretariat of State had been sanitised and disinfected after the positive result.
The Saturday confirmation came several days after reports began circulating of an official and resident of the Domus being positive for coronavirus.
Bruni explained Monday that official confirmation of the safety measures and testing came as late as it did because it took some time to have the results of all the tests — more than 170 — which had been sent to the Bambino Gesù paediatric hospital. “There were several children’s tests in line,” Bruni said, “which obviously had precedence.”
When the results of the first battery of tests were in, there was one other positive result: another official of the Secretariat of State, who is not, however, a resident at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. At that point, there were ordered further sanitisation and a second, wider round of tests, which took a while longer. All of the tests administered in that second round came back negative.
Il Messaggero had already reported on Friday that the second person who tested positive was Fr Angelo Tognoni ICMS, who also works in the Secretariat of State. Fr Tognoni lives in a religious house on Italian territory, that of the Institute of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — just off the Via Aurelia, a few kilometres southwest of Vatican City, and well within the Rome city limits.
The Catholic Herald independently confirmed those reports on Monday.
The Vicar General of the Institute of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fr Mario Piatti ICMS, told the Catholic Herald that the official in question is indeed Fr Angelo Tognoni ICMS, and that others in the house are ill with COVID-19. Fr Piatti described their situation on Monday as “a bit difficult” but said they are managing with the help of the local ASL (the public healthcare provider).
In the email sent to journalists on Saturday, to which the statement from the Holy See regarding the testing procedures and the sixth positive case was attached, the press office “invited” accredited journalists: “[T]o observe what they undertook at the time of accreditation to the Press Office, the ethical rules of journalism [It. le regole deontologiche del giornalismo], especially in relation to respect for the identity of persons for whom there has been a positive response to Covid-19 [sic], particularly when these do not hold institutional roles, safeguarding their privacy.”
Last week, the Catholic Herald was able to confirm the identity of the Domus resident and official of the Secretariat of State who tested positive for the virus – Mgr Gianluca Pezzoli, a priest of Mantua – after speaking with the chancery in Mgr Pezzoli’s home diocese.
Also on Monday, Pope Francis received Italy’s Prime Minster, Giuseppe Conte, in the Vatican.
Mr Conte’s visit with Pope Francis followed another in recent days from Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi. There was no word from the Vatican regarding either meeting, both of which were billed as “private” audiences rather than as official visits. Mayor Raggi saw Pope Francis on Saturday morning.
Saturday was a busy day for the Holy Father, who also had meetings with the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet; the presiding judge of Vatican City’s judicial court, Prof Paolo Papanti-Pelletier; the editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda; and the Magnificent Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Prof Franco Anelli.
On Monday afternoon, Italy released its most recent coronavirus numbers.
At the official daily briefing, Italy’s civil protection announced that there were 4,050 new positive diagnoses in toto. That number is lower than yesterday’s in absolute terms, and represents a total increase of 1,648 in the number of current cases. 1,590 persons were declared free of the virus after having tested positive, and 812 people succumbed to the disease, bringing Italy’s death toll to 11,591.
The visit from Conte came one day after Pope Francis made an appeal at the Sunday Angelus for a general cessation of hostilities in all conflicts worldwide.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, had made a similar appeal last week, to which Pope Francis added his voice on Sunday, saying: “May our joint fight against the pandemic bring everyone to recognize the great need to reinforce brotherly and sisterly bonds as members of one human family.”