OFWs in Italy stay resilient amid coronavirus worries, says Filipino priest

OFWs in Italy stay resilient amid coronavirus worries, says Filipino priest

A virtually empty street in the city of Bergamo after prevention measures were announced by Italian health and government authorities due to the coronavirus pandemic. CBCPNEWS

By Roy Lagarde

March 22, 2020

Manila, Philippines

As the spread of coronavirus shows no sign of stopping in Italy, a priest said that the Filipino community has remained resilient, particularly in the worst-hit province of Bergamo.

Fr. Virgil Murillo, Bergamo diocese’s chaplain of the Filipino community, said everyone is demonstrating a level of concern but it’s not straight over into hysteria.

“They remain resilient in the midst of these trials,” said Fr. Murillo.

The priest also praised how the Filipinos are helping each other cope with the situation.

“The spirit of charity is really alive,” he said.

Bergamo has been described as the coronavirus ground zero in the country’s badly-hit region, Lombardy.

Italy has shut down all but most essential services, after nearly 800 people died from the virus on Saturday.

The country also saw its toll for the past month reach 4,825, the highest in the world, and about 53,578 total cases to date, with about 6,000 people having recovered.

Fr. Virgil Murillo livestreaming his Mass on March 15 for the Filipino community in Bergamo — the Italian city hit worst by the coronavirus. SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK LIVE

There have been about 300,000 cases of the COVID-19 worldwide with 13,000 deaths, while nearly 92,000 have recovered.

In Bergamo, caskets are already being transported to other cities using military trucks as local crematoriums are packed.

“The hospitals are overwhelmed, and even the cemeteries,” Fr. Murillo said.

Italy has been under lockdown since March 8, prompting dioceses to cancel public Masses and other religious activities.

Fr. Murillo said that he has been reaching out to the Filipino Catholic community by holding masses and meditations online.

“I don’t want to trivialize the situation but as a believer, may this be an opportunity for us, especially the families, to pray,” he said.

“In these moments of trials, I encourage the families to be the sanctuary of God’s presence,” Fr. Murillo added.

There are roughly 161,885 Filipinos in Italy and about 1,500 of them are in Bergamo.

A priest from Palo archdiocese, Fr. Murillo has been with the Bergamo diocese’s Office on Migrants since 2015. He is also the only Filipino priest working in the diocese.