Business World

Sunday 19 November 2017

Italian priest on Concordia cruise caught out lying to parishioners about retreat

Nick Squires

AN ITALIAN priest has a lot of explaining to do after telling his parishioners he was going on a spiritual retreat, only for it to be revealed that he was on the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Father Massimo Donghi told his parishioners that he was heading off for a week of contemplation and prayer, but instead boarded the luxury liner at Civitavecchia, north of Rome, for a luxury cruise of Mediterranean ports.

He was found out when his nephew, who was also on the cruise, posted assurances on Facebook that the priest had survived the disaster.

The nephew told worried friends and relatives that he, his uncle and the priest's elderly mother had managed to get into lifeboats when the 1,000ft liner ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

They were among the 4,200 passengers and crew who were forced to evacuate the ship after it smashed into a rocky shoal on the night of Jan 13.

Its captain, Francesco Schettino, apparently sailed too close to the island in order to give a 'salute' to a retired naval commander and as a favour to a member of his crew, a head waiter whose family are from Giglio, part of the Tuscan archipelago of islands.

Capt Schettino, who has claimed that his employers from Genoa-based Costa Cruises insisted on the risky manoeuvre in order to provide a spectacle for passengers, is under house arrest in his home town of Meta di Sorrento near Naples.

Father Donghi, who joined the priesthood after studying at a theological seminary in Milan, will now have to explain himself to his parishioners in Besana Brianza, near Monza in northern Italy.

Church-goers had imagined he had signed up for a week of simple living and religious devotion, rather than a cruise on board a ship which boasts spas, saunas, jacuzzis, four swimming pools, five restaurants, 13 bars, a casino and a discotheque.

“What do you want me to say?” the priest told an Italian news magazine, Panorama. “I have nothing to add. I’m OK although I’m still a bit in shock. I will talk to my parishioners in church. The judgment of others is not important to me.”

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