BENSONHURST — Father Carlo Graziano, a priest of the Diocese of Ariano-Lacedonia, Italy, who assisted at St. Athanasius for more than two decades, becoming a familiar face to the parish’s Italian-American community, died of complications of COVID-19 at Maimonides Medical Center on Jan. 18, parish officials confirmed.
Father Graziano, 82, was diagnosed with coronavirus last week. “It all happened so quickly,” said Msgr. David Cassato, the pastor of St. Athanasius. “He went into the hospital last Thursday, and he died today.”
Two priests from the Diocese of Brooklyn died of COVID-19 in 2020. Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, pastor of St. Brigid Church, Bushwick, died in March. He was the first Catholic priest in the U.S. to die of the coronavirus. In April, the diocese lost another priest to COVID-19 when Father Gioacchino Basil, pastor of St. Gabriel’s Church, East Elmhurst, died of the virus.
Father Graziano was born in Bonito, Italy, on May 20, 1938. After Elementary School, he continues his studies in the Episcopal Seminary of Ariano Irpino. He was ordained to the Priesthood on May 7, 1961, at the Archiepiscopal Seminary of Benevento and began his priestly mission in Ariano Irpino.
In 1970, he was transferred to Brooklyn, where he was assigned to St. Athanasius and St. Frances Cabrini, in Bensonhurst, and Most Precious Blood, Bath Beach. He continued traveling to Italy every summer from 1971 to 2002.
In recent years, he did not have an assignment to a particular parish but helped out at St. Athanasius-St. Dominic, as well as at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Bensonhurst.
He would have celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination this year.
“We offer sympathies and prayers for his family, for the priests, religious, friends and the faith whose lives he touched throughout years of his priestly ministry,” a statement on the St. Athanasius Facebook page read.
“He was a tremendous help to us here at our parish,” Msgr. Cassato said. “And he was wonderful with our Italian-American community. That community still has great needs, and he recognized that.”
Father Graziano often served the Italian language Mass on Sundays and enjoyed talking to parishioners about Italy’s goings-on. “He was such an intelligent man. He was so knowledgeable about Italian culture,” Msgr. Cassato said.
He also served at many funeral Masses at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Father Graziano was a witty man, Msgr. Cassato said. “My name is Italian for cake. He used to tell me that whenever he went to a bakery, he thought of me,” Msgr. Cassato said.
Because of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, Father Graziano’s family has requested a quick burial at the cemetery with no funeral Mass, officials said. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Athanasius Church at a later date.