An Italian priest who refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine because he believed they were made from "aborted embryos" has died at the age of 51 after battling coronavirus for several weeks.
According to the L'Unione Sarda newspaper, Don Paolo Romeo ignored pleas to get vaccinated from friends and colleagues who tried to get him inoculated.
Romeo Believed Vaccines were Made Using Fetal Cells
Romeo, who served as parish priest at Santo Stefano Abbey in Genoa, believed the conspiracy theory espoused by followers of French Catholic Archbishop Marcel FranÃ§ois Marie Joseph Lefebvre: that vaccines are made using fetal cells or cells from aborted embryos.
The claim is false has been debunked by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which noted in a statement released in January that "neither Pfizer nor Moderna used an abortion-derived cell line in the development or production of the vaccine."
Fetal cell lines, which are cloned copies of cells taken from elective abortions that were performed decades ago, were used in the testing of vaccines and have frequently been used for the testing of widely used drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Romeo Contracted the Virus in January, Hospitalized After Condition Deteriorated
Even the Vatican has stressed that Covid-19 vaccines are "morally acceptable" and "can be used in good conscience" during the pandemic. However, Romeo continued with mass celebrations despite rising coronavirus infections.
He tested positive for the virus in January and was hospitalized after his health deteriorated rapidly, according to local reports.
The Santo Stefano Abbey paid tribute to him on social media after his passing, writing Monday that he "has risen to heaven." "May the Lord reward him for all the good he has done here on this Earth and may he forgive his shortcomings if there were any."
News of Romeo's death comes days after Italy's Catholic military chaplain slammed calls by a former Vatican ambassador for the armed forces to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates, saying the ambassador's "conspiracy theories" were a source of confusion and disinformation.
Last month, an Italian parish priest drew criticism after he allegedly using a sermon to criticise Italy's vaccine restrictions, which requires everyone over the age of 50 to be vaccinated.