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As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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20180607T1040 17915 CNS CONGO EBOLA SACRAMENTS 800A World Health Organization worker administers a vaccination May 21 during the launch of a campaign aimed at beating an outbreak of Ebola in Mbandaka, Congo. (CNS photo/Kenny Katombe, Reuters) OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in Congo said emergency measures will remain indefinitely in place in parishes at risk of Ebola, and urged effective action against the disease by the government of President Joseph Kabila.

"Although Masses are continuing, sacraments such as baptism and confirmation have had to be suspended," said Msgr. Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the church's Social Communications Commission.

"Since we can't foresee how the disease will develop, we can't set out any timescale. But the crisis needs real containment measures, and we're counting on the government to provide them," he said.

Health care workers toiled to head off a feared epidemic in the Equateur province in northwest Congo, where at least 25 people have died of the almost-always fatal disease.

Msgr. Bomengola told Catholic News Service June 7 that at least 1,000 people had been vaccinated and that measures were in place to prevent "any personal contact" among Catholics.

"All precautions are being taken to ensure people don't come too close. It's a highly abnormal situation," he said.

"The church provides a key framework for communication and cooperation, and is at the very center of events, mobilizing preventive initiatives and providing transport and medical care," he added.

UNICEF said June 5 that nearly 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.

Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, decided to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.

He said the ban would extend to anointing the sick, exchanging the sign of peace and other acts involving physical contact, adding that a June 3 ordination Mass also had been canceled.

The archbishop added that clergy would dispense Communion to hands rather than mouths and would ensure sacred objects were disinfected before and after every Mass.

The Ebola outbreak coincides with political tension in Congo over preparations for long-postponed December elections as well as violence by armed groups in several provinces.

Msgr. Bomengola told CNS Ebola had "made everything more difficult for the population," adding that there were fears the disease could spread down the Congo River from the trading hub of Mbandaka to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million.
"We're trying to instill a calm hope for better things, to maintain the faith and prevent despair," he said.

"But we also rely on the government to take every effective step to end insecurity and stop this disease. Despite all the anger and hostility around us, normal life has to continue."

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.