The priest who opened his doors to COVID's dead

It was a shocking scene: dozens of coffins lining the inside of a church in small town northern Italy, because the hospitals and morgues were overflowing.

That was one year ago and Italy - once the epicenter of COVID in Europe - is now struggling once again with new coronavirus restrictions across most of the country and a coming Easter lockdown, to stop yet another spike in cases.

Reuters recently visited the priest who opened his doors to the dead back then; 270 of them in total.

"I am Father Mario Carminati, senior priest of the community of Seriate."

"It was a nightmare but I didn't have the opportunity to think about it a lot, because when you find yourself in the middle of an emergency you have to rush and act according to your instinct, and not according to your heart. The pandemic was devastating for the community because the city became a place of silence, with the noise of ambulance sirens passing by. It became a place of death, sadness, mourning, and this was an experience we lived for at least three months."

Today there's a photo on the wall of Father Carminati's church remembering that time. His congregation wears masks to mass. Milan, which is only an hour away, is a so-called "red zone" again, with non-essential shops closed. Schools are closed, again. There's restrictions on movement, again.

It's all very familiar. We visited Father Carminati before these most recent curbs, but he was thinking of the future.

"We must move forward with this wound that will heal slowly. Two of my nephews died, one was 36 and one was 34, and they died after five months of fighting against the coronavirus, and it's not easy to heal this wound. The wound returns, it bleeds on many occasions. It will take some time for this pain to become nostalgia, it is not something that can immediately heal."