Priest, 72, dies after giving up respirator to younger coronavirus patient in Italy

WATCH: Six political leaders in Italy offered dire warnings in recent days to their citizens: Stay inside and stop spreading the deadly coronavirus, or face punishment.

An Italian priest made the ultimate sacrifice, hoping to save the life of someone younger than him in a battle with the novel coronavirus.

Don Giuseppe Berardelli gave up a respirator that parishioners had purchased for him in the weeks leading up to his death, according to Italian publication TgCom24.

While it seems he didn’t know whom it would go to, he gave it up in hopes of saving someone else’s life.

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“He died after testing positive for coronavirus, but also because he chose to sacrifice himself for another person,” the site reports. “Don Giuseppe Berardelli … renounced the respirator he needed and that his parish community had purchased just for him.”

“And he did it so that respirator could go to someone else. Someone younger, but ill like him. Someone who didn’t even know.”

Berardelli, 72, had been archpriest of San Giovanni Battista parish since 2006, the publication says.

He died on the evening of March 15 in a local hospital in Lovere, where he was being hospitalized for health problems.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor of America Mag, shared his condolences for the late priest on Twitter.

“He is a ‘Martyr of Charity,’ a saint like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who in Auschwitz volunteered to take the place of a condemned man with a family, and was killed,” Martin wrote.

“Don Giuseppe died as a priest,” a health worker from San Giuseppe retirement home told Italian magazine Araberara. “I am deeply moved by the fact that he, archpriest of Casnigo, gave up his will to assign him to someone younger than he.”

Long-time mayor of Casnigo, Giuseppe Imberti, described him to the magazine as “a simple, straightforward person, with a great kindness and helpfulness towards everyone, believers and non-believers.”

So far, six Italian priests have reportedly died because of COVID-19, Newsweek reports. At least 14 have been hospitalized.

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He’s now one of the more than 6,000 Italians who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Outside of China, the European country was hit hardest by the rapidly spreading virus.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

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