When he became a priest 40 years ago, Father Mario Carminati knew that he would deal with death – but not on an industrial scale.
Coffins with deceased parishioners no longer leave one after the other in a shiny hearse after a funeral.
Now, because of the outbreak of the corona virus, coffins arrive every day and are placed on the cold marble floor of St. Joseph's Church.
"The authorities didn't know where to put the coffins," said Carminati, 64, the senior priest in Seriate, a quiet, middle-class riverside town with a population of 25,000 in northern Italy.
When enough has accumulated, he and other priests give them a hasty blessing and then a forklift loads them onto army trucks to cemeteries and crematoriums.
Congregations have been banned across Italy due to a national ban, so no funerals can take place in the church.
Seriate is located in the province of Bergamo, the most affected area in northern Lombardy Italy and the epicenter of the outbreak.
With a national death toll of 9,000 on Friday, Italy has suffered almost twice as many deaths as any other nation.
The priest said that the saddest thing for him was that many of his parishioners died alone and without relatives because the current restrictions on curbing the spread of the virus do not allow family members to enter hospitals.
"We often talk about the most needy and they are really the most needy now," he said in front of the church after blessing about 40 coffins with a younger priest, Father Marcello Crotti.
"They are the most needy even though they are no longer alive. Nobody has the time or opportunity to look after them, so I decided to open the Lord's house to them," said Carminati.
It is a short stay. After Carminati and Crotti blessed the latest coffins on Saturday, army troops in protective gear loaded them onto five trucks covered with camouflaged tarpaulins.
Bells rang as the trucks left the church and the residents looked down from windows and balconies made the sign of the cross.
When the caravan crossed an intersection, a city policeman with a medical mask and white gloves got up and saluted.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)