Catholic Pope Identifies With Ebola Response Team…As Cardinal Pays Visit To Liberia

By Janjay F. Campbell

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, the sixteenth, has identified with the National Catholic Church Ebola Response Team in the fight against the Ebola virus by donating US$10,000 to the Catholic Church in Liberia.

Speaking at a press conference at the Saint Teresa Convent School on Randall Street, His Eminent Cardinal, Peter Turkson, disclosed that he is here on a solidarity visit and to thank the local church for what they have done in the fight against the deadly disease.

He mentioned that his mission is not to give new direction but to see what they have done and the challenges they are faced with. He stressed that this will enable him to see how best the Holy Father can help and that they will not over step or side-line the local churches.

Also making remarks, the Most Rev. Bishop Anthony Borwah from Gbarnga Diocese disclosed that the Catholic Church has played and continues to play an important role in the fight against the deadly disease. He said Ebola survivors are being stigmatized and they have to be rehabilitated.

He added that because of the Ebola virus, many children in Liberia are orphans and that in Lofa County there are five hundred and fifty-five orphans and these children need to families care for them.

At the same time, the Most Rev. Bishop Andrew Karnley from the Cape Palmas Diocese said he is thankful to God that they did not experience what the others experienced because the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) stopped people from traveling from one county to the next.

He said since the end of June they have not been able to pay their teachers and that the issue of ambulance is very serious because if someone gets sick it becomes very difficult to transport the person any hospital.

Briefing His Eminent Cardinal Peter Turkson, Sister Barbara Brillant, who is the chairperson of the National Catholic Health Council, said they have applied for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for over three months but to date, they have not received any.

She added that the Benedict medical hospital on the Pipeline road will be open next year, February and that the staffs have been trained on how to wear and take off the PPE’s. She stressed that people are dying from other sicknesses than the Ebola virus and that has to stop.

Earlier in the day, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met with the Roman Catholic Cardinal with Cardinal Peter Turkson who has oversight on Justice and Peace. The meeting was held at her Foreign Ministry office.

Cardinal Turkson was accompanied to the meeting with the Liberian President by Apostolic Nuncio to Liberia,   Archbishop Miroslaw Adamczyk; Bishop Andrew Karnley of the Diocese of Cape Palmas; Monsigner Robert Vicillo of Caritas International; Rev. Fr. Patrick Kabbah and Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods of the Catholic Ebola Taskforce.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf welcomed Cardinal Turkson to Liberia and indicated that the best way to demonstrate friendship is to be there in times of need. She extended Liberia’s appreciation to Pope Francis and Cardinal Turkson for considering Liberia for a visit during this critical period.

The Liberian leader extended personal regards to Pope Francis and told Cardinal Turkson that memories of her last visit to the Vatican still remain with her and all members of her delegation due to the humility of the Pope. “Pope Francis was humble and gracious enough to have met and personally greeted all members of the delegation with a photograph.   My delegation was pleased with this and it lives with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

President Sirleaf welcomed the decision of the Catholic Church to re-open the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia and reflected on the many sacrifices made by the Church through the hospital for the people of Liberia. “Your interventions are always aligned with the priorities of the country’s rebuilding agenda,” she noted.

In response, Cardinal Turkson expressed joy for being able to visit Liberia at such crucial time and briefed President Sirleaf about his responsibilities as a Cardinal with oversight on Justice and Peace issues.

He reflected on the visit of President Sirleaf to the Vatican and informed her that Pope Francis has been following the Ebola situation in Liberia and other parts of West Africa with keen interest.

Cardinal Turkson informed the Liberian leader that the Vatican has developed a small action plan to assist with the Ebola crisis focused mainly on the post-Ebola era. “We have a small plan that is built on five pillars: Education, Care for Orphans, Support Healthcare, Psychosocial Support and Pastoral Approach to Burial Practices,” the Catholic Cardinal pointed out.

He thanked President Sirleaf and the Liberian Government for remaining focused during the Ebola crisis and for the tremendous success in containing the further spread of the disease.

Cardinal Turkson, a native of Ghana, left the Vatican on Sunday. He has also visited Sierra Leone on his current tour of the region. He departs Liberia for Ghana on Friday, December 19, 2014.

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