Archive of April 10, 2014

ND priest chosen to preach at NYC Good Friday service

Bismarck, N.D., Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Monsignor James Shea, this year’s preacher of the Tre Ore service for Good Friday at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, has said he will speak about how the suffering and death of Christ is “the actual pattern of the Christian life.”

“Suffering is meant for us to be something which opens our lives to meaning and to purpose,” Msgr. Shea told CNA April 9. “Suffering that’s empty is the worst thing you can imagine. But suffering that has meaning, suffering for love, is the thing which gives (the) most beauty to life.”

Msgr. Shea, a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, is president of the University of Mary, located in Bismarck.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York selected Msgr. Shea to preach at St. Patrick’s Cathedral April 18 for the Tre Ore service. Previous preachers at St. Patrick's Tre Ore have included Fr. Robert Barron and Fr. Romanus Cessario.

The event, lasting from noon until three, is a reference to the three hours during which Christ hung on the Cross, and it reflects on the seven last words from the Cross. It will be followed at 3:30 p.m. by the solemn liturgy of Good Friday.

The service was introduced to the Archdiocese of New York by Venerable Fulton Sheen, who was an auxiliary bishop of New York from 1951 until 1966.

During the Tre Ore, Msgr. Shea will deliver seven homilies of 10-15 minutes each. The service will also include music, meditative prayer, and opportunities for silent meditation.

Msgr. Shea emphasized that Christ's death “isn’t simply a sentimental or nostalgic event that happened some time ago.” As the Son of God, his death is “the center point of human history.”

In this light, “to consider these final words of the Lord from the Cross is really quite extraordinary.”

He said Christ's words, specially recorded in the Gospel of John, are an invitation to “a deeper level of understanding.”

“Behold your mother, behold your son… Father forgive them, they know not what they do… I thirst,” Msgr. Shea said, quoting the Gospel.

The priest reflected that New York City is “a crossroads of the world,” very different from his home in the plains of North Dakota.

“All cultures and even faiths converge in New York. I think and pray about all those who will come into the cathedral that day.”

He anticipated that many will visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the day.

“It will be Good Friday, and so people will be apt to wander in to hear the music. In the midst of that, I have the very humbling opportunity to speak to them about the death and the dying of Jesus, which is really actually very touching.”

Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck has stated that Msgr. Shea, “himself a devoted and zealous priest and a deeply spiritual man, will, I am confident, inspire all who hear him preach during this most holy time on Good Friday.”

“He's an excellent preacher of the word of God and will impress upon all the depth of the love and mercy of God in offering his only begotten Son for the sins of the world.”

Msgr. Shea said Cardinal Dolan’s request that he preach the Tre Ore “speaks to his kindness as a spiritual father” and “expresses his esteem for Catholic education.”

The priest was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome, at the time that Cardinal Dolan was serving as its rector.

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Migrants in Holy Land look forward to papal visit

Jaffa, Israel, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Migrant workers in the Holy Land are eagerly awaiting Pope Francis' pilgrimage to Palestine, Israel and Jordan next month, and are praying for its success.

“The migrant workers' communities are eagerly awaiting the Pope with joyful expectation,” Fr. Tojy Jose, OFM, head of the Indian Chaplaincy in the Holy Land, told CNA April 5.

Pope Francis will travel to the Holy Land May 24-26, marking the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, who was then the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Constantinople.

Fr. Jose said the Indian community in the area is “enthusiastic to hear the Holy Father.”

“The Pope's forthcoming visit has boosted the morale, and will reinforce the hopes, of the migrant Christians working in Holy Land.”

Pope Francis will arrive in Amman, the Jordanian capital, May 24 and pay a courtesy visit to the nation's king and queen, and he will later address national authorities.

That afternoon he will say Mass, then visit Bethany beyond the Jordan, the site where John the Baptist was baptizing. There, Pope Francis will address refugees and the physically disabled.

The following day, Pope Francis will travel to Palestine to visit Bethlehem, meeting the state's president and the Palestinian Authority, then saying Mass and praying the Regina Caeli.

He will lunch with Palestinian families at the Franciscan convent of Casa Nova, and then make a private visit to the grotto of the nativity. After this, he will be greeted by refugee children, and then depart by helicopter for Israel.

He will meet in private with Patriarch Bartholomew I, the present day Archbishop of Constantinople; the two will sign a joint declaration, after which there will be a public ecumenical meeting at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

On May 26, Pope Francis will meet Jerusalem's Grand Mufti, the Sunni cleric entrusted with the city's Muslim holy places.

He will then visit the Western Wall and lay a wreath at Mount Herzl, the site of Israel's national cemetery, and then make a discourse at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial of the Holocaust, and meet with Jerusalem's chief rabbis.

In the afternoon he will meet in private with Patriarch Bartholomew, aside the Orthodox parish on the Mount of Olives, after which he will meet with priests, religious, and seminarians at the church of Gethsemane.

Pope Francis will say Mass with the ordinaries of the Holy Land and the Papal suite at the Cenacle, and he will preach at the Mass.

In the evening, he will fly from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, say farewell to Israel, and return to Rome.

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Fatima statue inspires devotion, prayer in Castel Gandolfo

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Locals and swarms of pilgrims from various parts of the world gathered in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome recently to show their Marian devotion and join in communal prayer.

From April 3-7, the Pontifical Church Saint Thomas of Villanova hosted the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Parish priest Father Pietro Diletti told CNA that the arrival of the statue has sparked an intensity and ardor of faith within the local community as well as the throngs of visitors.

“It's been in the thousands because there are so many pilgrims – there is a continual coming and going of even non-Catholics who try to get close to Madonna,” he said. “The Masses are overflowing and also the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.”

“I'm glad that this devotion is coming from the hearts of people.”

The priest noted that some of the locals in Castel Gandolfo have visited the statue at its original home in Portugal.

“I had never been to Fatima,” Fr. Diletti said, but he reflected that the “dozen of the faithful who visited the Madonna” in Portugal have now had the experience of the statue reciprocating the gesture.

The church which houses the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was designed by Italian artist and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini and built in 1651. In earlier years, it was a crypt called the Church of St. Nicholas and Gabriel the Archangel, but at the request of Alexander VII, it was restored by Bernini and made into the present-day structure.

Of all Marian apparitions, those relating to Our Lady of Fatima are among the most famous. On May 13, 1917, brothers Francisco and Jacinta Marto – 9 and 7 years-old – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were with their sheep grazing near the Portuguese town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary.

After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary would come to the children on the 13th of the month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer.

In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Pope Paul VI on May 13, 1967, and later by Pope John Paul II.

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Maidan protests gave rise to a 'new society' in Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The three months of protests in Kyiv’s Maidan Square were a demonstration of Ukrainians’ moving beyond fear to find their freedom and founding a new society, a philosopher from the country’s east has reflected.

“Freedom is needed in order to defend human dignity,” Aleksandr Filonenko, an associate professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Kharkiv, told CNA April 8.

“We are not simply talking about the freedom of choice or the freedom of taking any decision -- we are above all talking about the freedom from fear.”

He said that “churches had an important role in Maidan because people have found the courage to go beyond fear and found their freedom, thanks to the experience of peaceful protest and of communal prayer.”

“Maidan brought a re-discovery of the value of our identity,” Filonenko continued. “Maidan started as a protest against the destruction of the dignity of the Ukrainian people operated by a power who tried to solve the problem of security with strength.”

Later, “people discovered that they needed to find their identity in order to defend their dignity, and, after three months of peaceful demonstration, they understood that it was pivotal not only to protest, but to find out for which values they were standing. And they understood these were European values.”

“Maidan evidently showed a civil society, which has been missing for several years in the post-Soviet countries.”

“Maidan gave rise to a new society, and now this society will need many years to be educated, to develop and to reinforce itself.”

With time, Ukraine must be “open to the world,” he said: and this does not mean merely the will to join Europe.

“We need a new country. It is interesting that Ukraine is going to join Europe, on the basis of European values,” Filonenko said.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halyc similarly explained in a press briefing held at Vatican Radio March 4 that “the central issue of all the discussion and the protests in Ukraine is about the European identity of the Ukrainian people.”

Filonenko also pointed out that “we should understand where Russia will be situated in the world order. Russia is in conflict with the whole world, and it is necessary to understand and redefine economic and social agreements with it. It is not just a problem of the relation between the Russia and Ukraine: all the world must confront with this.”

Filonenko’s home, Kharkiv, is a city which in 1989 had a population of 50 percent Ukrainians and 44 percent Russians. It is 25 miles from the Russian border, and has seen tensions in recent days.

Pro-Russian activists seized government buildings in the city April 6, according to the BBC – as they did in other eastern Ukrainian cities such as Luhansk and Donetsk. Kharkiv’s government building was retaken by Ukrainian authorities two days later.

Russia annexed Crimea, a largely ethnic Russian peninsula of Ukraine, March 18, following weeks of pro-Russian demonstrations in the territory.

This followed the Feb. 21 flight of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was replaced two days later by Oleksander Turchynov.

The Church in Crimea is experiencing persecution since the region’s annexation by Russia.

“We are cut off from the rest of the country,” Bishop Jacek Pyl, an auxiliary of the Diocese of Odesa-Simferopol, told Aid to the Church in Need April 9. “We communicate only by telephone and email; even aid packages are blocked at the border.”

Bishop Pyl said that “we try to respond to the emergency by donating food and medicine, with particular attention to families.”

“We also help the Greek Catholic faithful, who participate in our liturgical celebrations because all their priests have left Crimea.”

Of the five Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests who had been serving the Crimean exarchate, three were kidnapped by pro-Russian forces in mid-March. They were all released, and are reportedly now safe.

Latin-rite priests, of the Odesa-Simferopol diocese, remain in Crimea for now, though its “unclear for how long,” according to Aid to the Church in Need, which said that the Russian government administering Crimea will require visas of Ukrainians not from the territory.

Many of the religious serving in the Odesa-Simferopol diocese are of Polish nationality, and have long-term work permits, issued by the Kyiv government, rather than visas.

Bishop Pyl also lamented the halt of negotiations for the restitution of Catholic property seized during the Soviet era.

“Sevastopol’s church, which was transformed into a theater under communism, seemed close to returning to the Church, yet now, past efforts are of no value … we started from zero many times, and are ready to do it again.”

The Crimean crisis has brought Christians of different Churches closer together.

Bishop Pyl urged Latin Catholics “not to allow the brotherhood among the peoples of the peninsula break.”

According to Aid to the Church in Need, “many Orthodox priests of the Kyiv patriarchate have left Crimea for fear that Moscow intends to encompass their Church or even to prohibit their presence on the peninsula.”

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is largely divided between two bodies: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aid to the Church in Need reported that “deprived of some of their own clerics, Christians of the Ukrainian Church have preferred to turn to the Catholic Church rather than that of Russia.”

Bishop Pyl said that “their faithful have expressed the desire to pray with us and I consented immediately. We are all sons of one God.”

He concluded that the Church will survive in Crimea only with prayer and the theological virtues.

“Faith allows us to regard what has happened through the prism of the providence of God; with hope we turn our gaze to the future, because we know that God is close to us in this difficult time; and charity, which turns us to God and to our brethren, helps us to not cultivate hatred in our hearts.”

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Pope Francis warns against the dictatorship of narrow thought

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis cautioned faithful against idealizing one’s own way of thinking and encouraged them to be vigilant in prayer, noting that a closed mind leaves no room for God.

“Even today there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought” which kills “people’s freedom, their freedom of conscience,” the Pope expressed in his April 10 daily Mass.

Speaking to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, Pope Francis launched his homily by reflecting on the day’s first reading, taken from Genesis, in which God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but that he and his descendants would have to observe the Covenant with the Lord.

Looking at this passage, he noted, helps to explain Jesus’ message to the Pharisees in the day’s Gospel, taken from John, in which he calls them liars because they did not listen to the prophets, and reveals that he has existed long before Abraham, for which they attempt to stone him.

Their mistake, the pontiff observed, was to “detach the commandments from the heart of God,” emphasizing how they thought it was enough to merely obey the commandments, which are more than “just a cold law.”

“This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind, and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind, and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God,” but only for what we believe should be done, the Pope continued.

“It is a closed way of thinking that is not open to dialogue, to the possibility that there is something else, the possibility that God speaks to us, tells us about His journey, as he did to the prophets,” he emphasized, noting that “these people did not listen to the prophets and did not listen to Jesus.”

Explaining how this attitude is “something greater than a mere stubbornness,” the Roman Pontiff insisted that “No, it is more: it is the idolatry of their own way of thinking.”

Highlighting that “these people had a narrow line of thought and wanted to impose this way of thinking on the people of God,” the Pope drew attention to how “Jesus rebukes them for this” by saying, “You burden the people with many commandments and you do not touch them with your finger.”

Pope Francis then went on to describe how the theology of the Pharisees “becomes a slave to this pattern, this pattern of thought: a narrow line of thought,” and observed that “there is no possibility of dialogue.”

Continuing, he emphasized that with this mentality “there is no possibility to open up to new things which God brings with the prophets,” stating that “they killed the prophets, these people; they close the door to the promise of God.”

“When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes,” he lamented, adding that “we all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought, which ended up killing a lot of people...when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of thought was allowed. This is the way they think.”

Explaining how even now people foster this idolatry of “a narrow line of thought,” Pope Francis emphasized that “today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you're not open or worse.”

“Often rulers say: ‘I have asked for aid, financial support for this,’ ‘But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law,” he expressed, noting that type of dictatorship “is the same as these people.”

“It takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is Crucified once again.”

Concluding his homily, the Roman Pontiff drew attention to Jesus’ exhortation in front of this narrow-minded thought, stating that it “is always the same: be vigilant and pray; do not be silly, do not buy” into things “you do not need.”

“Be humble and pray, that the Lord always gives us the freedom of an open heart, to receive his Word which is joy and promise and covenant! And with this covenant move forward!”

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Vatican, civil authorities join forces against human trafficking

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Gathered in Rome to discuss methods for the eradication of human slavery, both law enforcement and Vatican officials exchanged ideas on how to collaborate in combating the issue and caring for victims.

“Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis exclaimed in his April 10 audience with the conference participants.

Drawing police chiefs from 20 different nations around the world, the April 9 – 10 conference was hosted by the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences, and was organized through the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.

This marks the second conference bringing individuals together in the Vatican to discuss the topic of human trafficking, the first being held in the fall of 2012. Following this week’s gathering, participants revealed that a third gathering will convene in London this coming November.

In his message the Pope extended his greetings to attendees, thanking them for their presence and encouraged them all to “combine our efforts” with the desire for “our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel” and “by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime.”

Referring to human trafficking as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” the pontiff gave special attention to the presence of law enforcement authorities, “who are primarily responsible for combating this tragic reality by a vigorous application of the law.”

“It also includes humanitarian and social workers, whose task it is to provide victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life” he continued, noting that although these are “two different approaches,” they “can and must go together.”

During an April 10 press conference following the conclusion of the meeting, representatives from Asia, Africa and Europe responded to journalist’s questions regarding the events and topics of discussion over the last two days.

Speaking in reference to the importance of the strong backing the Holy See gives to civil authorities on the issue, London’s Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed that this collaboration is crucial.

The fact that Pope Francis, who met with the four survivors of trafficking who gave their testimony during the conference, is giving the topic such dedicated attention is extremely helpful, Howe noted, especially since most of the trafficking is of a sexual nature, because the Pope approaches victims with a particular tenderness.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of the Abuja province in Nigeria, affirmed the importance of the Pope’s interest in the issue, stating that the fact that he drove down to meet the conference participants rather than having them come to him and wait demonstrates that “He's present, he's part of this group.”

When asked whether or not these meetings have made an impact on the number of trafficked individuals who are being rescued, Sir Bernard Howe responded that he has “seen more come forward,” but that still “only one percent of victims being trafficked are coming forward.”

This is because, he explained, many are addicted to drugs and fear that they will be judged or condemned by both government and Church officials, also because many are no longer in their home countries, and do not have visas or legal immigration status.

Regarding initiatives which both Church and legal authorities are seeking to put into place in order to combat the issue more effectively, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, stated that the issue is handled in different ways in different countries, however he lauded the system of support given to victims in Australia, who are able to be sustained by the government for up to four years.

In England, the cardinal explained that they are seeking to expand and extend the resources already available for as long as possible by establishing a sanctuary where first contact with a victim can be made, and where there can be psychological assistance and an assessment of the victim’s needs.

Other goals, he continued, are to help initiate the process of a court hearing, bring about a reconciliation between the victim and their families, and attempting to get rescued persons back into the workplace.

“Slavery has never been as widespread in the world as it is today,” he observed, emphasizing that “those being trafficked are not free” and that there is a need to “focus on those taking people and bodies.”

A religious sister who traveled to Rome from Nigeria for the two-day encounter, and whose order has been highly praised for their efforts in helping trafficked women in Africa, was also present at the press conference.

Emphasizing how the work they do “is great, and complicated,” the sister highlighted that all those gathered have “different projects, but the same goal,” and explained that a large part of this goal is “to build a more human society…with answers for all that don't exclude anyone.”

Quoting one of the victims who gave her testimony during the conference, Cardinal Nichols expressed that her voice echoed that of all those who are suffering at the hands of human trafficking, when she stated that “I would like greater presence from police, and I would like the bishops and the Church to pray for me.”

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Venezuelan government invites Vatican to peace talks

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA) - Venezuela's foreign affairs minister, Elias Jaua, has sent a letter to the Vatican, inviting its participation in the National Peace Conference that has been convened by President Nicolas Maduro.

The move came after a meeting between Venezuela government officials and the opposition, during which both sides agreed that the Holy See could join in the peace process.

In the letter, made public April 9, Jaua sent an invitation on behalf of President Maduro to Pope Francis, inviting him to take part in the talks between government and opposition leaders, through the designation of “good will witness.”

On Tuesday, representatives from both the Venezuelan government and the opposition had an exploratory meeting to begin talks aiming at putting an end to violent protests that have left at least 39 dead and hundreds injured or detained.

The ongoing unrest took another turn Sunday when a leading journalist at the Globovision television network, Nairobi Pinto, was kidnapped outside his home. Pinto’s friends say political motives are behind his disappearance.

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino called on the government of President Maduro to heed “the voices of so many who point out that we are going down the wrong road.”

Speaking at the Tiferet Israel synagogue in Caracas April 7, Cardinal Savino said, “Venezuela has problems today, and she needs the effort of all citizens in order to resolve them.” 

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Priest murdered in Nicaragua, report says

Managua, Nicaragua, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA) - A priest who was counseling a married woman outside his parish rectory April 6 was allegedly killed by her husband, who then reportedly killed his wife and turned the gun on himself.

“I wish to express the sentiments of deep sorrow that priests, religious and the faithful are experiencing over the recent death in an unfortunate act of murder of Father Juan Francisco Blandon Meza, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in the town of Wiwili,” said Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera of Jinotega, according to Fides news agency.

Fides reports that police have reconstructed the events that took place April 6, with the help of an eyewitness, who said the 42-year-old priest was standing outside speaking to two women when the husband of one of the women approached and shot her and the priest before turning the gun on himself.

Police are continuing with their investigations.

“The community of Wiwili is in shock, because Father Blandon Meza was known for this commitment to social issue groups and his defense of human rights,” Fides reports.

Bishop Herrera told reporters that the priest appears to have been murdered by “a psychologically unstable man.”

In an official statement, the bishop offered condolences to the families and gratitude for the prayers of the community.

He remembered Fr. Blandon as “a charismatic, joyful, jovial priest who inspired young people to follow Jesus Christ, who motivated our lay people to believe and to fight for respect for the dignity of the human person, the search for the common good and to show solidarity for our neighbors who are suffering.”

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Health workers in West Africa respond to Ebola outbreak

Conakry, Guinea, Apr 10, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Health care workers are joining forces with Catholic charities and local communities in response to a deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

“I've been here 37 years as a missionary and through five wars, and I say to myself, 'I never thought we'd have Ebola now to look at.' But it's what happened and we have to fix it,” said Sister Barbara Brilliant, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary.

Sr. Barbara serves in Monrovia, Liberia, as the national health coordinator for the National Catholic Health Council.

In an April 5 interview with CNA, she detailed the ongoing efforts to fight the disease in West Africa.

Last month, the World Health Organization confirmed an outbreak of the Ebola virus in southeast Guinea. Since then, health authorities have confirmed 72 cases of Ebola, with at least 180 suspected cases of the disease and more than 100 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever that can kill up to 90 percent of those infected with it. The disease travels through bodily fluids – primarily the blood – causing high fever, headache, bleeding, immune system shutdown and oftentimes internal and external bleeding.

Currently, there is no known cure and no vaccine, though researchers are working on vaccines to prevent the deadly disease. This is the first outbreak in West Africa, with previous outbreaks spread throughout central and eastern Africa since the virus' emergence in 1978.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids including blood and sweat, as well as through the eating of wild animals, such as fruit bats and monkeys, which are considered delicacies in some parts of West Africa.

World Health Organization officials have said in statements that they expect the outbreak to last for several months.

Tim Shenk, press officer for Doctors Without Borders, said his organization is working in Donka Hospital in Conakry, the capitol of Guinea, to help contain and treat the outbreak, and has also set up two structures to provide care for patients in southeastern part of the country.

The organization is also helping to inform communities “about the illness and the precautions to be taken to limit risk of contamination.”

“Basic hygiene – such as washing one’s hands – can significantly reduce the risk of transmission,” Shenk told CNA in a statement.

Doctors Without Borders is also working to reduce Ebola's “very high mortality by addressing the symptoms,” such as by administering fluids to dehydrated patients and offering vitamins and anti-pain medication.

Shenk added that the medical organization “has been working with local communities to ensure that discharged patients who have beaten the virus can return home safely, and that everyone understands they are no longer contagious through hugging, kissing” and other kinds of contact once the patient has recovered from the disease.

Sr. Barbara explained that in Liberia, the National Catholic Health Council is working on education and preventing the spread of the disease from rural areas to other parts of the country.

When the outbreak began, there was “a lot of anxiety,” she said, but the worry is receding with continued education and safety procedures.

The Catholic health group is working in the country's three dioceses and in 18 Catholic facilities throughout Liberia to fight Ebola, and is also working with local community leaders and health professionals to teach the public, “so they understand how Ebola is passed on.”

“You have to have direct contact with those who are ill,” Sr. Barbara said, rather than merely be in the same room to an infected person.

The National Catholic Health Council is also partnering with Catholic Relief Services to help fund personal protection equipment and other medical tools.

In addition, the council is working to put together “standard operating systems” to help decrease infections among health care workers in direct contact with patients, and to encourage hygiene and the use of chlorine and bleach for sterilization.

Sr. Barbara explained that some of the largest challenges will be in addressing certain cultural practices and their contribution to the spread of the disease.

“In rural areas, it's that they eat a lot of bush meat,” she said, adding that certain burial practices that involve handling of the body by the family could also contribute to the spread of the disease.

However, she continued, the National Catholic Health Council is “working with the traditional leaders” as well as “government administrators” to help educate people on the risks of these activities.

Sr. Barbara asked that “everyone would keep us in their prayers” and thanked Catholic Relief Services for their support and outreach.

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