VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With the number of priests and religious dying from coronavirus-related illnesses rising, Pope Francis offered his prayers for those who died after being infected helping COVID-19 patients and their communities.
At least 50 priests, four nuns and at least 24 doctors have lost their lives and 5,000 health care workers in Italy were known to be infected as of March 24 because of the pandemic.
At the start of his morning Mass March 24, the pope said he was aware of the growing number of doctors, nurses and priests who have died after becoming infected while being “at the service of the sick.”
“Let us pray for them and their families. I thank God for the heroic example that they have given us in their care for the sick,” he said.
Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin told his priests in a letter they are called to a ministry in some ways similar to that of doctors, nurses and psychologists.
“The people turn to you with trust and hope, seeking help or even just a word of support, of accompaniment,” he wrote.
Recognizing the difficulties and restrictions placed upon them for the safety of themselves and others, the archbishop said they were still shepherds, and Jesus teaches that when confronted by a wolf, a good shepherd “is not afraid and does not run away like a mercenary, but defends his flock.”
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