Pope: doctors, nurses and priests who died from the epidemic are ‘next-door saints'

Francis celebrated the ‘In Coena Domini” Mass in an empty St Peter’s Basilica, except for a dozen people present. “Nobody knows their names”. They are “anonymous priests, country parish priests who know the locals. One told me that he knew the names of all the people in the village. ‘Really? I said to him.’ Even the dogs. [. . .] Today I carry you all to the altar.”


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis defined as “next door saints” the "more than 60 priests” as well as doctors and nurses who died in Italy performing their duty during the pandemic.

During the homily for the In Coena Domini Mass, which commemorates the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, Francis thought about those who gave their lives.

Speaking without notes in an empty St Peter's Basilica, except for a dozen people present, the pontiff said that the Chrism Mass could not be celebrated today. On this occasion, priests renew the promises made at their ordination.

"This year there is no Chrism Mass,” said Francis. However, “I cannot forget the priests who have died. So far, more than 60 have died in Italy; doctors and nurses too: they are the next-door saints.”

"Priests who travel far to bring the Gospel and die where they go. A bishop told me that the first thing he does when he arrives in a city is to go to the cemetery to see the tombs of dead priests.”

“Nobody knows their names”. They are “anonymous priests, country parish priests who know the locals. One told me that he knew the names of all the people in the village. ‘Really? I told him.’ Even the dogs. [. . .] Today I carry you all to the altar.”

“We are all priests, from the latest ordained to the pope. We are all priests, anointed by the Lord for the Eucharist.”

As a result of the epidemic, there was no washing of the feet, which today’s Gospel mentions. There was also no reposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Francis referred to the Gospel passage saying that “if I do not let the Lord be my servant, I shall not enter the Kingdom.”

“Thus, conscious of the need to be washed, be great forgivers. [. . .] This will be the measures by which we shall be measured. Do not fear to forgive, have the courage to risk forgiving, and if you cannot give sacramental forgiveness, give consolation, leave the door open.”

Francis ended by thanking God for the grace of the priesthood. “I thank God for you priests. God loves you! He only asks you to let your feet be washed.”

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