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Rome Reports

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The priest who has been cured of Ebola

This is the joy of those who know that they have escaped death by very little. It is this emotion that welcomes Fr. Lucien Ambunga to Itipo, after he had been battling Ebola for weeks.

This photo of him in quarantine went viral as a symbol of the epidemic. It was him receiving a distant blessing from Archbishop Coadjutor of Kinshasa, Monsignor Fridolin Ambongo Besungu. 

Now, those painful memories have been left behind and Fr. Lucien only has words of gratitude.

“What can I say now? It’s not a lot, but it’s what is in my heart: it is joy, since they said that I was already dead, but the Lord showed me grace and I came back to life.”

The whole town, in the diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, has now come back to its pastor. Masses had been canceled for weeks to avoid the risk of transferring the disease.

The priest returns with a clear mission: to make his community aware that the virus is very real, but the solution is to put oneself in the doctors' hands, and not sorcerers. Thus, don't think the virus is the result of witchcraft.

“Now, what I have to do first, is make my parish aware that this virus exists (Ebola), they have to accept that. They have to accept, in case they are sick, to go quickly to the hospital, like I did. Then they will have an 80 percent chance of being cured like me, and to return to the community like me.”

With this Mass, he turned the final page to these weeks of nightmare. It is the first Eucharistic celebration since he fell ill.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a double battle is waged in these weeks. One against the disease, and another is a stigmatization against those who contract it.

World Health Organization
“We need to take care of their reintegration because many of them are being stigmatized by their communities, because the communities don’t know. They are afraid.”

The country has been fighting against an Ebola epidemic for more than a month. This is of particular concern to the World Health Organization, because it has been detected near densely populated urban centers. So far, almost 50 infections have been recorded that have cost the lives of about 30 people.