While Fr Giuseppe Berardelli is remembered fondly by those who knew him as a man of kindness and self-sacrifice, the reports of a donated respirator passed along to a younger patient are not true, the secretary general of his diocese told CNA on Tuesday.
“There was not a donated respirator. There have not been any respirators coming from outside of the hospital,” Fr Giulio Dellavite told CNA on March 24.
Doctors in Italy’s Lombardy region have struggled to treat the more than 10,000 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in the region with a limited number of intensive care units.
Fr Dellevite, a friend of Fr Berardelli for over 20 years, said he believes that Fr Berardelli would have given up a potential spot in the intensive care unit up for another younger patient, if he could have.
“But we do not have certainty,” the priest said.
“It is not like the way that some journalist wrote: that it was a respirator bought for him and then given by him to someone else,” Dellevite said.
A March 22 report from the Italian website Araberara, which claimed Fr Beradelli sacrificed a respirator donated by his parish for another younger patient, went viral March 23.
The website quoted an anonymous employee at the San Giuseppe Rest Home in Casnigo as the source of its information.
But Benedetta Francina, an employee at the San Giuseppe Rest Home, told CNA it is unlikely fellow employees of the rest home could have known how things ended for Fr Berardelli, because he died at the Lovere Hospital, and not at the rest home.
Francina told CNA she is a parishioner of Berardelli’s parish, St. John the Baptist, and that she knew the priest as a man of great faith.
Still, she said that the members of her parish are facing a crisis with the coronavirus outbreak, and have been isolated from each other for weeks. She had never heard of a fundraiser for a respirator.
“He was a person full of faith and always a person who transmitted joy, positivity, and was always happy, always ready to give a word of comfort,” she said.
“He always gave of himself to his parishioners and to all of the people that had a need or a want,” Francina said. “He was always ready if someone needed to speak with him or needed help. He was always ready, he was always always ready. So when I remember Fr Giuseppe I remember him as a wonderful person.”
The Diocese of Bergamo confirmed that Fr Giuseppe Berardelli died last week after contracting COVID-19. He was 72 years old.
Berardelli is one of 23 priests reported to have died from COVID-19 in the Diocese of Bergamo located in the region with one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in Italy.
A total of 6,820 people in Italy have died of coronavirus, the Italian Ministry of Health reported March 24. Among the dead there have been at least 60 priests, according to local media reports.
In his televised Mass on March 24, Pope Francis praised the heroism of doctors and priests who have died after treating or visiting the sick.
“I have heard that some doctors, priests have passed away in recent days, I don’t know if [there are] any nurses [who have died],” the pope said March 24.
“We pray for them, for their families, and I thank God for the example of heroism they give us in treating the sick,” Pope Francis said.
The following is a list of the priests reported to have died of coronavirus in the Italian Diocese of Bergamo: