As Christians prepare to join in prayer today for peace in the Holy Land, a parish priest in Gaza says his parishioners appreciate Pope Francis’ closeness and his frequent phone calls of support. Source: Vatican News.
The Holy Family Catholic Church has been turned into a sort of hope-filled refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, as over 700 people seek shelter in the parish amid constant bombings.
“After the bombing four days ago that involved the Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, causing 18 deaths, many more Christian refugees have arrived in our parish,” according to the parish priest, Fr Gabriel Romanelli.
He said there were also “54 children assisted by Mother Teresa’s nuns, and many of them require special care since they have physical difficulties”.
People of various religious beliefs are hosted in the parish, which has become the nerve centre of the Church in Gaza.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has provided the precise coordinates of the church to Israeli authorities to prevent an accidental airstrike hitting them.
“All the nuns,” said Fr Romanelli, “have decided to stay in the Holy Family parish to be with the refugees.”
They are aware of the risks they face, he added, “because there is no safe place. The Israeli army has repeatedly asked us to leave the northern part of the Gaza Strip, saying we should go south, but that is also bombed.”
He said the community’s most urgent need is prayer. “We need to pray and ask for prayers, offering sacrifices to end the war. And then, certainly, basic necessities because there is truly a shortage of everything.”
The Pope has called for today to be observed as a Day of Prayer, Fasting, and Penance for Peace.
Gaza’s parish priest: Christians in Gaza will unite with Pope in prayer (By Federico Piana, Vatican News)