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Report reveals COVID-19’s toll on Catholic priests and religious


Pascal Deloche | Godong

J-P Mauro - published on 07/20/21 - updated on 07/20/21

The Associated Press suggests that COVID-19 deaths may compound the shortage of Catholic priests.

Over a year after the world pandemic began, the Associated Press is examining the effect of COVID-19 on Catholic clergy and religious. The report focused on some of the nations that were hardest hit by the pandemic. 

The report noted that not all who succumbed to the illness were elderly, although that was the most susceptible group. Many of the deceased fell ill while working on the front lines of the pandemic with medical personnel. The AP suggests that the pandemic may further compound the shortage of Catholic priests. 


Spring of 2021 saw a drastic increase in active COVID-19 cases, as well as deaths, in India. According to the AP, the month of April saw as many as two Indian priests or nuns dying per day. Catholics are a minority in the primarily Hindu nation, making up only 20 million of the country’s 1.38 billion population. 

Rates of death were higher in regions that were affected by severe weather. At the start of this year’s spike in infections, weather prevented the distribution of vaccines. It is estimated that more than 500 priests and nuns have succumbed to the disease since mid-April.

Italy & Brazil

Italy was one of the hardest hit nations during the beginning of the pandemic. It is estimated that 292 Italian diocesan priests died from March 2020 to March 2021. This toll has nearly matched the 299 new ordinations in Italy that came in the same timeframe. 

Brazil, similarly, has seen some of the highest rates of infection among Catholic priests. The AP reports some 1,400 infections of Brazilian clerics, 65 of whom have passed away. Among these deaths are three Catholic bishops and Cardinal Eusebio Scheid, 88, who was elevated by Pope St. John Paul II. 

United States

The U.S. was high on the list of affected countries, although the report notes that there are no comprehensive statistics on the matter. Since March of 2020, more than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID-19

Although the report lacked specific numbers, it noted that dozens, if not hundreds, of nuns have died. These deaths have been reported across the country, and the majority of cases were found in those living in community. Many of the deceased were retired nuns who had worked in the fields of education or medicine. One order alone, the Felician Sisters, lost 21 nuns at four convents.

Read the full report and learn more about specific cases at the Associated Press.

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