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Pope Francis makes surprise Christmas call to widower whose wife died in childbirth

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Gelsomino Del Guercio - published on 01/07/23

The grieving husband and father to newborn twins received a comforting and encouraging phone call.

On Christmas day, the phone at Giacomo Cofano’s house rang late in the afternoon. On the other end was Pope Francis, who wanted to embrace and console him. Giacomo, the new father of two beautiful twins, has just lost his wife Viviana, who died from complications after childbirth. Life and death have intertwined leaving this man dismayed and perhaps unprepared for so much sorrow. 

The parish priest’s initiative 

Cofano’s parish priest, Fr. Donato Liuzzo, who has been the family’s pastor for years, told the pope the story of human suffering that had shocked the small southern Italian town of Pezze di Greco in the province of Brindisi, where Giacomo lives. 

It’s not the first time that Pope Francis has picked up the phone to make his closeness felt to people, especially those affected by death or illness. He has called earthquake victims, the terminally ill, and mothers and fathers deprived of their children by a sudden misfortune or an accident, among others.

Once again, the spoke words of comfort and hope, thinking of those little twins who were born prematurely on December 17 in the hospital of Brindisi, and had needed to stay for days in neonatal therapy. Viviana Delego, an English teacher, was 41 years old when she died on December 22 at the hospital in Perrino, less than a week after giving birth. 

Sharing the story on Facebook

The parish priest shared a post on Facebook, saying that it was difficult for him to break his silence about the tragedy, but this time he did so willingly to “echo the intimate joy lived on this Christmas day, together” with Giacomo, who has been sorely tried by his wife’s death. The story was further reported by Italian news websites, including Il Messaggero.

December 25, 7:20 p.m.

The priest had reached the pope’s secretary with the sad news, and on December 25, 2022, at 7:20 p.m., the pontiff called Giacomo. “Fr. Donato, who is a friend of mine, had asked me if I answered unknown numbers. And he invited me to do so. A call might arrive from the Vatican, he told me,” the widower of the woman who died in childbirth told Corriere della Sera.

The newborn twins

Just at that moment, Giacomo was returning from the hospital with Edoardo Maria, one of the newborn twins. He told Corriere della Sera, “I answered and heard, ‘Hello, this is Pope Francis.’ I got very excited and we started talking. We were talking on the phone for a few minutes.” 

What did the Pope say?

Giacomo described to Corriere’s news reporter Cesare Bechis what the pope had said:

Words of comfort. He understood the tragedy of a mother who gave her life for her children and the sorrow that has struck my family. I was very emotional, I don’t remember the precise words, I was amazed by the fact that he thought of me and found a few minutes to call me and encourage me. I swear, I felt as if I were talking to a loved one, a friend. It was almost like a confession. He ended the call by telling me he was available for anything. It seems absurd to say given what happened to us, but it was a good Christmas. He gave meaning to it. Among other things, there’s a coincidence: the twins were born on December 17, the same day as the pope.

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