The Church of the Holy Family in Gaza The Church of the Holy Family in Gaza 

Gaza’s parish priest: Christians in Gaza will unite with Pope in prayer

As Christians prepare to join in prayer on Friday for peace in the Holy Land, Fr. Gabriel Romanelli tells Vatican News his parishioners in Gaza appreciate Pope Francis’ closeness and his frequent phone calls of support.

By Federico Piana

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, in an interview with Vatican News.

He pointed out that there are also “54 children assisted by Mother Teresa’s nuns, and many of them require special care since they have physical difficulties.”

Holy Family Parish: a crucial center

People of various religious beliefs are hosted in the parish, which has become the nerve center of the Church in Gaza.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has provided the precise coordinates of the church to the Israeli authorities to prevent an accidental airstrike hitting them.

“All the nuns,” explained 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.”

Primacy of charity

Fr. Romanelli claimed that the parish has now become like the community of the early disciples of Jesus.

“We do everything together,” he said. “We pray and try to live in charity by sharing what we have.”

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.”

United in prayer with the world

On Friday, 27 October, when the Day of Prayer, Fasting, and Penance for Peace is observed, as called for by Pope Francis, the faithful of the Holy Family parish will join their prayers for peace to those of the rest of the world.

Those suffering men, women, and children already cry out to God every day, noted Fr. Romanelli. “They rise early in the morning and at 8 AM prepare the church for the first Mass. After that, divided into groups, they recite the Holy Rosary all day, while the afternoon is devoted to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration of the second Mass.” The extraordinary thing is that Catholics and Orthodox all participate.

Pope close to the suffering

Fr. Romanelli also thanked Pope Francis once again for his constant closeness.

“He calls us almost every afternoon,” said the parish priest of Gaza. “He calls me, and if he doesn’t reach me, he calls the parish. It’s a great sign of generosity, of goodness. We know that he is close to the entire population, everyone without distinction.”

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26 October 2023, 15:53