“In the face of the worsening Ebola epidemic,” Pope Francis said Wednesday, “I wish to express my deepest concern over this relentless disease that is spreading above all on the African continent, especially among the most disadvantaged groups.”
At the end of his weekly audience held in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis assured the tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists present of his prayers and sympathy, praised the heroic efforts of healthcare workers, and appealed to all to do what is in their power to assist those who have been infected.
“With my affection and prayers,” the Pope said, “I am close to those afflicted, as well as to the doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious institutes and associations who are working heroically to help our brothers and sisters who are sick.”
“I renew my appeal to the international community to make every effort to eradicate this virus, and effectively alleviate the hardships and sufferings of those who are so sorely tried,” the Pope said.
Francis closed with an invitation “to pray for them and for all who have lost their lives.”
On Tuesday, the Catholic charities umbrella organization “Caritas International” announced a special meeting to be held in Rome on November 4 to coordinate efforts of the diverse Catholic groups that have been responding to the epidemic, especially in West Africa.
“At this point, it’s not only about preventing Ebola. We’re also called to care for the thousands of healthy people who were already poor, who have no access to healthcare for other illnesses and whose lives have been turned upside down by this crisis,” said Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, a special advisor to Caritas.
“Much of the work has been to educate people about the facts surrounding Ebola, because there’s so much fear and panic and misinformation that goes out among the people,” he said.
The Ebola epidemic continues to ravage parts of West Africa. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 5,000 deaths had been reported as of Oct. 19, but true numbers could be as high as 15,000.