With the coronavirus pandemic raging in Italy, the country has been short of medical resources, and its people's nerves on edge. During this difficult time, there is as a group that has taken on the problems. They have frequented the hospitals where they have comforted, accompanied and helped the patients. The group is not an ambulance staff or paramedics, but a group of Catholic priests.
According to the number of persons tested, there are nearly 75,000 positive coronavirus cases in Italy. More than 60 priests are among the dead, most of whom were over 70 years old. In a mass in early March this year, Pope Francis, now 83, called on Italian priests to take courage, face the difficulties and share the power of God with patients.
There are reports that many priests are seriously ill. The youngest who died was 53-year-old Paul Caminati, the priest of the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. "These are difficult times. We are frustrated. We are very distressed." Bishop Gianni Ambrosio said, "This is the darkness we must face. We hope God will never abandon us, and we will overcome all suffering to defeat this disease."
Bishop Parma Enrico Salmi said it was painful to see ill priests. They usually comfort others and give people strength, but now they go into the ICU unaccompanied.
While the majority of people have praised the bravery of the priests, there have been dissenting voices. Although most people are grateful for the selfless dedication of the priests, some people think that they are making the situation worse and could die in vain. For them, the priests' work is insignificant and has wasted Italy's valuable medical resources, and they might be infected with the virus and help to spread the epidemic.
Of course, the priests are not sacrificing themselves in vain, nor is their work meaningless. Their selfless dedication has warmed Italy and touched the entire world, helping convince people that with this noble spirit, humans can defeat viruses. Bravery and fearlessness will triumph.
"Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." This quotation from the Bible demonstrates the strength of faith.
What's more, the priests did not use medical equipment needed by others. On the contrary, they gave up their own resources so younger persons could receive care and the priests faced death bravely.
News soon reported that an Italian priest named Bellardelli died of his illness after giving up his ventilator to a young man.
Because of the epidemic, Father Radley's funeral could not take place normally. However, while his coffin was being carried to his burial, many residents paid tribute to the old priest from their windows or balconies.
After Italy was locked down, some priests walked down the street with monstrance and sent blessings to everyone they met. Didn't they know that staying at home could keep themselves safe? But the priest chose to come out. Many people kneeled on one knee and made signs of the cross in response to the priests and the blessing from God. This was quite an extremely warm scene.
We should not judge the goodwill of others according to our own understanding. Chinese and Italian cultures are quite different.
When China was on lockdown, all gatherings were suspended. Pastors are not special and should, of course, stay at home as requested by the government, and persuade believers to stay at home and comply with the instructions of epidemic prevention.
This is all we can do. Go gather online. Shepherd and comfort Christians online. During this critical time, since the policy has been made, we should follow it and pastors are no exception, or we might make things worse.
All the Italian priests did was just to respond to their vocation, fearlessly following the example of Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
We are different, and see our beliefs in different ways. We don't need to blame the priests who were infected. Actually, Jesus would go to the hospital to comfort the patients too, even if he might be infected.
When the Roman Empire was persecuting Christians, Peter was planning to leave. However, he chose to return to Rome. He had to return, stand with his brothers and sisters, and die together in Rome. This was the mission that Jesus Christ gave him. He did not resist, but obeyed. According to legend, when he was dying, he asked the soldiers to crucify him upside down, but when he remembered that he refused to admit that he knew Jesus three times, he felt that he was not worthy of the same sentence. This was Peter's choice. This was the heritage of the Catholic Church, their choice, and their way of belief.
A good shepherd can die for the sheep. When they choose the priesthood and put on the priest's robe, they are ready for death. This is one reason why priests are required to be celibate. Such sacrifices are rare among Protestant pastors. To say so, is to judge. There is a difference in behaviors caused by differences in theological concepts.
So, pray for the priests. They are brave. They brought light to all of Europe.
-Translated by Lin Changfeng