A Catholic chaplain aboard the sinking Costa Concordia rushed to consume the Eucharist in an attempt to protect it as the cruise liner began to sink on Friday night.
Fr Rafaeli Mallena, 70, described his ordeal to Fr Giacomo Martino, director of the Apostolate of the Sea for the Italian bishops’ conference.
He said as he realised the ship was in serious peril he had two things at the forefront of his mind: protecting the valuables, which the staff had entrusted to him, and protecting the Blessed Sacrament.
When the first explosion was heard during dinner, Fr Rafaeli said, “he felt immediately that something was very, very wrong”, according to Fr Giacomo. He immediately went to the chapel to pray and 40 minutes later, when he realised the “abandon ship” alarm was sounding, he consumed the Eucharist and locked the staff’s valuables, including jewellery and money, in a safe.
As chaos ensued among the 4,200 passengers aboard, the priest tried to stay aboard in an effort to help but he was persuaded by crew members that it would be better if he boarded a lifeboat and left the sinking ship.
Fr Giacomo Martino said that Fr Mallena had now returned to Rome where he was recovering from his ordeal.