ROME – Perugian Catholics have launched a novena for their archbishop, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who is currently hospitalized in intensive care after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, tested positive for the coronavirus in late October and was admitted to the Saint Mary of Mercy hospital in Perugia, where he has been receiving treatment.

A Nov. 1 bulletin from the hospital said Bassetti was suffering from bilateral pneumonia and resulting respiratory failure due to COVID-19, requiring him to receive “high levels of oxygen.”

Due to a change in his vital signs during the night between Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, Bassetti was transferred from the ordinary COVID-19 treatment wing to the Intensive Care 2 unit, and is “under careful multiparametric monitoring of vital functions and subjected to all the necessary medical treatments.”

Described as “alert and cooperative,” Bassetti continues to remain in intensive care. According to a Nov. 4 bulletin from the hospital, he still has a “severe” prognosis and requires “continuous oxygen therapy with non-invasive ventilatory support,” in addition to other treatments.

Bassetti is one of several cardinals to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Others include Italian Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of Rome, who received treatment and recovered; Philippe Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), who received medical treatment and recovered; and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who was asymptomatic.

Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan has also tested positive but is asymptomatic and is currently in quarantine. Similarly, Perugia Auxiliary Bishop Marco Salvi is also asymptomatically positive for COVID-19 and is in self-isolation.

In a Nov. 3 statement posted to the archdiocese of Perugia’s website, Salvi said that starting Tuesday, the Canons of the Chapter of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo – a community of priests charged with caring for the cathedral – began praying a novena written by Bassetti during Italy’s spring outbreak of the coronavirus.

The novena will take place every day for the next eight days in front of the image of Our Lady of Grace, a beloved Perugian icon, in the cathedral of San Lorenzo for Bassetti’s intentions and for all those who are sick with the coronavirus.

“The entire diocesan community lives this moment of trial with apprehension for their pastor Gualtiero,” Salvi said in his statement, and voiced appreciation to the parish communities, religious and contemplative orders, associations, groups and lay ecclesial movements, who are praying for Bassetti’s “speedy recovery” and for the staff who are caring for him.

“We have always been close to our pastor Gualtiero, materially and spiritually, and we are even more so at this moment,” Salvi said, and invited to join in the diocese’s prayers, “which we entrust to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace, so dear to our cardinal.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, after Bassetti’s transfer to intensive care, the Italian bishops’ conference said they met that day in a virtual emergency session to discuss the cardinal’s condition.

They assured of their support for Bassetti and all others infected with COVID-19, and offered their thanks to doctors, health workers and “all those caring for the suffering.”

“May the comfort and presence of the Holy Spirit sustain those who today are severely tried by illness. May the Risen Lord not make his reassuring presence known,” they said.

Delpini, even though he is asymptomatic, issued his own statement Nov. 3 saying he has received numerous letters of concern and assuring prayers for his recovery.

“I would like to respond to everyone, but this is not possible for me. I would like to thank you for your interest, good wishes and prayers,” he said, noting that while for the moment he has no symptoms, his quarantine provides “a little more time to pray, also for you.”

Italy recently issued a new wave of restrictions, largely regional, to curb the country’s rising infection rates, with 28,244 new cases and 353 additional deaths recorded Tuesday.

Pope Francis has also taken steps to help stop the spread, among other things suspending his public general audiences after someone in the crowd at his Oct. 28 event tested positive for COVID-19, and announcing Wednesday the closure of the Vatican museums and villas.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen