Doctor and nurse wearing protective gear, greet as they take care of a patient at the level intensive care unit, treating COVID-19 patients, at the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome, on April 20, 2020, during the country's lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Alberto Pizzoli /AFP)
A bishop in northern Italy who had been intubated for 17 days and almost died of COVID-19 celebrated an outdoor evening Mass June 14 with doctors, nurses, hospital staff and Caritas volunteers who have been helping others during the pandemic. Bishop Derio Olivero of Pinerolo said he wanted to show his gratitude by celebrating Mass so that those who care for others could "spend an hour enjoying the care of God, because God always takes care of us, even during the pandemic." About 400 people, including the head of the intensive care unit at Pinerolo's Agnelli hospital, attended the Mass in the courtyard of the diocesan seminary; everyone in the congregation wore masks and the chairs were set 6 feet apart. For a believer, there always is a future with God, and not even death can derail it, the bishop said before Mass. "I saw how death could come -- for two or three days it was very near. But do you know how amazing it is to be able to say, 'Death, I don't want you; you will not have the last word, because God is stronger than you are and you will never block my future.'" "God takes care of us and that is really what leaves us breathless," the bishop said, referencing the way the coronavirus attacks a person's lungs. "I know what it means to not be able to breathe from COVID; it's horrible."
"One day all of us will stop breathing," he said, "but our affections will remain, and the care of God will not stop even then." The bishop was hospitalized March 19-May 5. In his homily, Bishop Olivero noted how philosophers and theologians for millennia have looked at the question of why evil exists. "Evil can have the face of an illness -- we have seen that," he said. "Or the death of a loved one -- we've seen that, too." Facing anything from a toothache to a terminal illness, everyone has asked why evil exists, "and we've asked it even more often in this time of the coronavirus," the bishop said. But he encouraged people at the Mass to notice how no healthy person ever says, "Finally, something bad is happening to me." Rather, they always say, "This should not be happening. Life should not be this way." When a person goes for a hike in the mountains or receives a warm embrace or is helped in a time of trouble, "you think, 'Ah, this is life,'" he said. Bishop Olivero said he was not able to eat anything for days while in the hospital. "I dreamed of gorgonzola," a pungent cheese native to northern Italy. And, after a couple of days of drinking only water, a nurse asked if he wanted a teaspoon full of coffee mixed in. "Wow," he said. "It was amazing." "All of this tells us that we were born for things that are good and beautiful," he said. "At a time when we all feel more fragile and exposed, at risk, even closer to suffering or immersed in it, we must remember that God created, molded and formed us for what is beautiful and good. And that is fantastic."
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...