Retired Scripture professor is first priest known to die in Rome of coronavirus
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2020 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Fr. Miguel Ángel Tábet is believed to be the first priest to die of the coronavirus in Rome. Two other priests living in the same residence of Opus Dei in Rome remain hospitalized.
The 78-year-old priest died on April 8 after treatment in the intensive care unit of the Biomedical University of Rome. He was an emeritus professor of Sacred Scripture and the exegetical history at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce.
“A priest who lived by teaching and seeking the Word of God has personally found the Divine Word. Let us pray for him and entrust ourselves to his intercession,” Fr. Luis Navarro, rector of the University of Santa Croce said April 8 of Tábet.
In a letter issued the day before Tábet died, Fr. Navarro asked for prayers for Tábet and two other Santa Croce professors infected with COVID-19.
Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, 82, is being treated in intensive care in the hospital. Carrasco served as the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life from 2010-2016 and was appointed a bishop by Benedict XVI.
“We are praying for a miracle that he might recover since his condition is not good at all,” Fr. Bob Gahl told CNA April 8.
Fr. Rafael Martínez, Vice Rector of Academic Affairs, is also hospitalized, but said to be recovering well.
Gahl said that the others living in the Opus Dei residence in Rome “have been quarantined for nearly two weeks as a precautionary measure, but thankfully none of the others have any significant symptoms.”
Fr. Tábet is remembered by his theology students as a joyful and wise teacher.
Tábet was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1941, and had served as a theology professor at Santa Croce since 1984. He taught the Hebrew language, exegesis, and Biblical hermeneutics, and wrote numerous books in Spanish and Italian on the life of Christ, the early Church, and the Old Testament.
“A very cheerful priest all the time … he would always encourage people that it is good to know the life of Jesus Christ,” Lily Mbayi, a student from Kenya told CNA.
He had a very good sense of humor, Mbayi said, he could make an opportunity to laugh out of anything.
There have been 4,266 coronavirus cases in Lazio, the Italian region in which Rome is located, documented by Italy’s Ministry of Health.
The Vatican reported April 8 that another Holy See employee has contracted COVID-19 after visiting sick relatives in another region before the lockdown and remains outside of Rome. This brings Vatican City’s total to eight coronavirus cases, two of which are currently hospitalized.
Throughout Italy there have been 139,422 COVID-19 cases and 17,669 coronavirus related deaths, as of April 8.
Ninety-six Italian diocesan priests, mostly in northern Italy, have died after contracting COVID-19, according to Avvenire. Among them, Fr. Gioacchino Basile, 60, who died in a hospital in New York on April 4.