The recently-elevated cardinal of Seoul has expressed his gratitude to the doctors and nurses of the Catholic Medical Center for their service during the ongoing Mers outbreak in South Korea.

"The medical team of CMC (Catholic Medical Center) has played a critical role in bringing an end to the MERS crisis," Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung said, during a July 18 visit to St. Mary's Hospital at the Catholic University of Korea.

"You have shown real courage in dreadful situations and truly lived out the spirit of the hospital founded in respect for human beings."

South Korea has had 186 confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) in the past two months and at least 33 people have died, according to the BBC. Hundreds of people remain under quarantine.

Cardinal Yeom met with around 15 doctors, nurses, and staff who had direct contact with patients, giving a rosary to each of the medics and encouraged them to "always give their best effort with a prayerful heart." He also promised his prayers for the medical staff and their work.

Nearly 2,500 schools were temporarily closed at the start of the outbreak. Some buildings installed temperature screening booths to recognize people running fevers. South Korean officials issued public health guidelines that included wearing masks.

Cardinal Yeom, too, wore a mask during his meeting with medics at St. Mary's Hospital.

"I seldom wear a mask and I am already feeling the discomfort," the cardinal said. "Imagine how much discomfort the medical team has to endure while taking care of the patients in the protective suit."

St. Mary's Hospital and other affiliates of the Archdiocese of Seoul's Catholic Medical Center were among the few hospitals to accept suspected Mers patients during the outbreak. Last month, the government named the Catholic Medical Center the "trustworthy hospital of Korea" for its response to the outbreak.

When Catholic nurse Stella Yun Sun-hee heard of the outbreak, she immediately volunteered to help treat patients at St. Mary's Hospital.

"I felt the urge to offer my service as a medic," Yun said. "I was very touched when the patient said to me, 'thank you so much for coming here, I know it wouldn't be easy'."

Mers is caused by a virus similar to the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Symptoms include fever and breathing difficulties and there is no vaccine or special treatment. Mers can also cause pneumonia and kidney failure, according to the BBC.
There have also been confirmed Mers cases in the Philippines, China, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Medical staff from all eight affiliates of the Catholic Medical Center will gather for a Mass this Sunday for those affected by the Mers outbreak.