Worshippers attend a funeral at Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church, in Gaza City Worshippers attend a funeral at Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church, in Gaza City 

Churches condemn air strike on Greek Orthodox building in Gaza

An air strike on a building adjacent to St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church has killed several people taking shelter there, and has drawn strong condemnation from Christian Churches.

By Vatican News staff reporter

At least 17 Christians, including 10 from one family, were killed on Thursday evening, 19 October, during an air attack on one of the buildings within the compound of the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza. Several other people reportedly remained trapped under the debris.

The building—affiliated with the church, which is one the oldest churches in Gaza—collapsed in the explosion, caused by Israeli missile strikes, according to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Some 400 people, mostly Christians, had found shelter in the compound when the war began nearly two weeks ago.

The Israeli Defense Forces admitted to bombing a command and control center belonging to Hamas, but said that the church was not the target of the strike.

The Patriarchate reported that a large number of people were injured by the blast—some seriously—among refugees Christians and Muslim families who were taking shelter in the church adjacent to the destroyed building which wasn’t directly hit.

According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), among the victims are several young Christians who were part of the “Employment Generation Project” for Christian youth, run by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The building is located a few hundred metres from the Holy Family Catholic Church, where a further 500 Christians are sheltering.

Many families from the Greek Orthodox compound have had to relocate to the Holy Family parish church, which is already filled to capacity. According to ACN’s sources, the Catholic compound was also hit on Thursday evening, by stun bombs.

A war crime that cannot be ignored

In a strongly-worded statement, the Greek Greek Orthodox Patriarchate condemned the strike.

A statement released 19 October stressed that “targeting churches and its affiliated institutions, in addition to the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who lost their homes as a result of the Israeli bombing of residential areas during the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored.”

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has also strongly condemned the attack.

“We condemn this unconscionable attack on a sacred compound and call upon the world community to enforce protections in Gaza for sanctuaries of refuge, including hospitals, schools, and houses of worship,” said the WCC general secretary Rev. Jerry Pillay. “Our prayers go out for healing to all those wounded, along with our condolences to Patriarch Theophilos II and all our Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ.”

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20 October 2023, 17:05