10/29/2014 07:16 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST

Pope praises 'heroic' responders to Ebola, urges renewed international effort to defeat virus

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has praised the "heroic" response by doctors, nurses and volunteers helping contain the Ebola epidemic and has urged renewed international efforts to defeat the virus.

Francis also asked for prayers for the victims during his Wednesday general audience, noting that Ebola is striking parts of Africa where some of the world's most disadvantaged already live.

He said that he was gravely concerned about this "implacable illness" and was praying for those infected as well as those "who are heroically doing everything possible to care for our sick brothers and sisters."