A 19th Century Irish-American priest set to be beatified by the Catholic Church may have died from a form of coronavirus. 

Father Michael McGivney, who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, died in 1890 during the Russian Flu Pandemic that killed one million people globally and 13,000 people in the United States. 

However, some researchers and virologists point to evidence that the Russian Flu Pandemic was not a form of influenza but actually a strand of coronavirus. 

Researchers have been pursuing the theory for around 15 years and say that there is evidence to suggest that pandemic of 1889-1990 resembled the SARS-COV2 virus which is currently forcing most areas of the world into lockdown, except that it leaped to humans from cows rather than bats. 

The Russian Flu Pandemic was the last great pandemic of the 19th century and there are some uncanny similarities between it and the COVID-19 crisis currently facing the world. 

The pandemic, for instance, only reached America after first spreading through Europe and when it reached American shores, a number of prominent political figures denied the threat to public health. 

Read more: 104-year old Irishman remembers surviving the 1918 Spanish flu

US newspapers reported rising death tolls as the number of victims grew and it appears as though Father Michael McGivney was one of those victims. 

Fr. McGivney was serving as a parish priest in New Haven Connecticut when he became seriously ill with pneumonia during the pandemic in August 1890. 

He died at the age of 38 on August 14, 1890, due to complications arising from the infection. 

The son of Irish Famine immigrants, McGivney set up the Knight of Columbus at St. Mary's Church in New Haven in 1882 to provide financial protection to families who suffered the death of a breadwinner. Today, the order is the largest fraternal order in the Catholic Church. 

The Irish-American priest's father died in 1873 and he formed the Knights of Columbus to help others going through similar challenges. 

The Knights of Columbus, which now boasts more than two million members around the world, said that Fr. McGivney was set to be beatified by Pope Francis. 

The fraternal order made the announcement on May 27 and said that Pope had recognized a miracle connected to the deceased Irish-American priest. 

An unborn child in the US was healed of a life-threatening condition in 2015 after the child's parents prayed to Fr. McGivney, which precipitated the beatification.  

Read more: Top five Irish fraternal orders you need to include in your family history search