One of the most influential members of the Vatican, Cardinal Peter Turkson will arrive in Sierra Leone today on a two-day visit before proceeding to Liberia on Saturday 18 December in solidarity with countries hardest hit by Ebola.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the Vatican Radio that he would bring “a message of solidarity and hope to the Church, health workers and the general populations.”
Cardinal Turkson also recognised “the need to help priests and other pastoral care workers attend to the spiritual needs of those living with the infection and of their loved ones. We must treat the whole person not just their bodies. Even though there is a ‘no touch’ policy in these countries, it is possible for pastoral care workers to pray with from a safe distance, to counsel them, to bless them, and to officiate at their funeral rites, which must be coordinated by specialized burial teams.”
Cardinal Turkson will be accompanied by Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, Special Advisor on Health for Caritas International.
“The Church, including Caritas, religious congregations, and other organisations of Catholic inspiration has been in the ‘front lines’ of the Ebola response,” said Vitillo.
“In addition to providing health care for other illnesses and establishing strict infection control procedures and screening areas in order to prevent transmission of the virus in the health care setting, the Church has mobilized a community response and community education in order to engage clergy and local parish groups in efforts to stop the spread of this deadly virus” he went on.
The Cardinal observed that the impact of this epidemic goes far beyond the health sector saying: “The closing of businesses and other places of employment has raised havoc with an already fragile economy. Experts tell us that the social costs are very serious; because the schools are closed, teenage pregnancies are on the increase, as well as petty crimes, as young people wander the streets with no productive activity. Ebola orphans often are rejected by their extended family members even when they have been confirmed as ‘Ebola free’.”
© Politico 16/12/14