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Parish priest: ‘Gaza is full of ordinary people who pose no threat to anyone'

Fr. Gabriel Romanelli, parish priest of the Holy Family Church in Gaza, says his community needs peace and humanitarian corridors. His appeal for a halt to the bombings was recorded on Tuesday, the day before an air strike caused extensive damage to the area adjacent to the parish where hundreds of refugees are sheltered.

By Linda Bordoni

Gaza’s Holy Family Catholic Parish was amongst those assisting some of the people who were injured in the blast that devastated a Greek Orthodox Church on 19 October, killing at least 18 Christian Palestinians sheltering there.

The Holy Family parish priest, Fr. Gabriel Romanelli, was stranded in Bethlehem when the war broke out on 7 October, but he has remained in constant contact with his parish and flock since then.

His appeal to halt the bombings and establish humanitarian corridors for the ordinary citizens of Gaza "who pose no threat to anyone" was recorded the day before an airstrike hit the area just beside the parish on Wednesday evening, 25 October. At the time of publication of this article, there was no news regarding casualties and damage, only images of the bombed site.

In his appeal recorded on Tuesday, Fr. Gabriel explained that the parish is only about 400 meters from the Greek Orthodox church that was struck last week.

They are our neighbours, he said, and everyone has been deeply affected by the tragedy.

“They are all relatives, friends, people we care about, people we loved.”

He said that those most seriously injured have been taken to the hospital while the others have sought refuge in the parish.

Now, he said, together with the refugees who were already sheltering in our church, “there are approximately seven hundred people, including the children of Mother Teresa's mission.”

“The situation is critical. The bombings occur day and night.”

Appeal to stop the bombings

Lamenting the fact that the number of casualties throughout the Gaza Strip has exceeded 5,100 people, with thousands more injured, Fr. Gabriel said, “What we are asking for is a stop to this war and the creation of humanitarian corridors to ensure the well-being of everyone.”

“This is what we are asking and praying for the good of all.”

Most urgent, he continued, is the need to stop the bombings, which are killing people.

“As I'm recording this, there are people dying,” he said, pointing out that there are also many trapped under the rubble and “the hope of finding them alive is almost non-existent, including some eight hundred children.”

Fr. Gabriel expressed his gratitude for the many religious who have chosen to remain with the people, with the children they care for, with the disabled and with the elderly. Like them, he said, they have no safe place to go.

“There is no safe place in the entire Gaza Strip.”

His parishioners are asking for prayers, he continued, as they live in fear that they too may be struck like their neighbours at the Greek Orthodox church.

Civilians who pose no danger to anyone

Fr. Gabriel said the hundreds of people sleeping there have become like the early Christian communities, sharing what little they have and with a common plea for the bombings to stop.

“They ask for this message to reach the Israeli authorities and the authorities of other foreign or Arab countries: Please, let them know that the parish, for example, is filled with ordinary people and Muslim neighbors. These are civilians who pose no danger to anyone.”

"May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace, grant us peace, and we pray for all the victims, for those who are injured, and we also pray for all those who offer sacrifices for the good of the people in the Holy Land, especially those who tirelessly pray for the small Christian community in the Gaza Strip."

25 October 2023, 18:14