Wigan: priest dies after contracting swine flu

Father Edward O'Toole

Father Edward O'Toole

A parish priest from Wigan in Lancashire died on Tuesday, after contracting swine flu, the Archdioces of Liverpool has confirmed. Father Edward O'Toole, 47,  of St Edward's RC Church and St Cuthbert's RC Church in Wigan, is believed to have contracted the disease on a visit to Fatima.

Father Edward, who was asthmatic, returned from the trip at the beginning of October  with flu symptoms. A parish worker said his last service was a funeral, at which he apologised, because he was losing his voice. Fr Edward's condition deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to Wigan Infirmary less than a week later with chest and kidney infections and was diagnosed with swine flu.

A joint statement from Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, said: "It is with great sadness that we confirm that a patient diagnosed with swine flu died in the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan.

"The Trusts extend their deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased."

The Archdiocese of Liverpool said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Father Edward O'Toole on Tuesday 27 October.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, parishioners and friends at this time.

"It is understood that swine flu was a contributory factor in his sad death.  The local Primary Care Trust has given assurance that even in these circumstances the precautions which are in place in the Archdiocese are adequate if taken seriously."

Father Edward became St Edward's parish priest in 1998 and took over at St Cuthbert's two years ago.

Fr Andrew Jolly, of Sacred Heart Church in Wigan, who helped cover services at St Edward's and St Cuthbert's during Fr Edward's  illness told the Manchester Evening News: "Father O'Toole put his heart and soul into his priesthood and gave everything to the church and the people.

"He was a close personal friend of mine who I'd met through the church 13 years ago. It's come as a big shock to everyone who knew him. We knew he was ill but thought he would pull through it."

A Mass for Fr O'Toole will take place at St Edward's on Tuesday night. His funeral will be held at Litherland near Liverpool on Wednesday morning.

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