Churches grapple with Ebola crisis
Reported Ebola cases and deaths – but some say the reporting “vastly” underestimates the situation (Graph image, Leopold Martin)
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in December 2013 in Guinea and now involves Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to a recent statement from the United Nations’ World Health Organization. On 14th August, WHO said that there were 1,975 cases of Ebola and 1,069 deaths reported in those countries, calling the outbreak “the largest, most severe and most complex” since the disease was first seen in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976.
However, WHO also said that health workers at Ebola outbreak sites were seeing evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the crisis.
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 41 WILLIAM BEDELL (1571-1642)
William Bedell, one of the few martyrs in Irish Church history, was born in Essex and educated at Emmanuel College Cambridge – at that time noted for the puritanism of its theological outlook – and became a Fellow of the College and a priest of the Church of England.
A formative experience for Bedell was his appointment in 1607 as chaplain to Sir Henry Wotton, ambassador in Venice, where Bedell’s lifelong reputation as a scholar and theologian began to develop. A fine linguist, he translated The Book of Common Prayer into Italian and became a friend of the reform-minded patriot, Paolo Sarpi. In 1616, he was appointed to a parish in England near Bury St Edmunds, where he remained for the following 12 years.
Although having no Irish connections, Bedell was chosen in 1627 to be Provost of Trinity College Dublin, where he instituted a number of reforms, including a tightening of discipline and an insistence on the due ordering of worship. He had an interest in the Irish language as a means of furthering the Reformation in Ireland and insisted that there should be some lectures in Irish, as well as prayers on holy days.
As Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh from 1629, he worked assiduously with a group of learned assistants on a translation of the Old Testament into Irish, which, although completed in 1640, was not to be published until 1685. He found the diocese in very poor order and set to work to improve the discipline of the clergy, appointing diligent men to parishes, including Irish speakers where possible, and insisting upon residency.
Bedell rebuilt ruined churches and tried to recover, not only in Kilmore but also elsewhere, property and income which had been alienated through widespread corruption. At the rising of 1641, he remained in his diocese, although many other clergy and lay people throughout the country left. His own house became a place of refuge until he was taken and imprisoned in the nearby island castle of Lough Oughter.
Although released, his privations were such that he died in the house of his friend. Such was the respect in which he was held by his captors that at his funeral, a volley was fired and one of them cried aloud: “Rest in peace, last of the English!” A Roman Catholic priest was heard to say: “May my soul be with Bedell’s.”
This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
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