From Independent Catholic News
The Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza has just (afternoon of Tuesday 29th July) received an evacuation order warning them that Israeli forces are planning to bomb their neighbourhood tonight. In a message, a priest writes:
” The church of Gaza has received an order to evacuate.. they will bomb the Zeitun area and the people are already fleeing. The problem is that the priest Fr George and the three nuns of Mother Teresa have 29 handicapped children and nine old ladies who can’t move.
“How will they manage to leave?? If anyone can intercede with someone in power, and pray, please do it. We are trying.. may our impotence be taken up by his Omnipotence!!”
The House of Christ in Gaza, is a care home dedicated to looking after disabled children. The disabled children were removed from the care home into the Holy Family Church recently because Israel was targeting the area.
UPDATE – Thursday 31st July:
A bombing carried out by the Israeli army on Wednesday (30th July) morning near the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza, has partially destroyed the adjacent parish school, the priest’s office and some rooms used by the parish. The main target of the bombing was a home that is situated a few metres from the parish and was completely destroyed by the raid.
Parish priest Fr George Hernandez said that yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the Israeli army had begun to send SMS messages to residents of al-Zeitun – the eastern area of Gaza City which houses the Catholic and Orthodox parishes – and ordered them to leave the homes that were to be bombed. Many people ran away, but the evacuation was not possible for those who currently live in the church. Argentinian Fr George said there were three nuns of Mother Teresa along with 29 disabled children and nine elderly women in their care at the parish of the Holy Family.
“We had a tough night, but we are here. This war is absurd”, said Fr Hernandez. “After destroying the neighbourhood of Shujayeh, now Zeitun is being targeted. Everything happens around us. The Hamas militants continue to fire rockets and then hide in the alleys. And we cannot do anything. We cannot evacuate, it is impossible with children. Their families live here. It is more dangerous to go out than stay here. We try to stay in safer places, always on the ground floor. “
Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem (the name of the Roman Catholic Diocese) gave this interview a few days ago:
How do you view the situation today as the conflict rages in Gaza?
I view the violent situation today as an immediate result of the failure of the peace process started by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. He had nine months to write a political frame for future negotiations. The deadline came at the end of April without success. This failure caused a lot of frustration among Palestinians, tension and exasperation. The killings of the 3 Jewish young people, the detention of Palestinians which followed, the killing of the Palestinian young man in Jerusalem and the launching of rockets from Gaza were the triggering factors that caused the present violence.
Where are the voices for peace? Are there any on the Israeli side? Are there any on the Palestinian side?
There are voices of peace of course on both sides. I consider that Mahmoud Abbas is one of them. He’s against a third intifada and against escalation. He offered his condolences for the three Israeli teenagers, and he’s working for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, along with Mr. Sisi, the President of Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are also voices for peace: the religious leaders of Jerusalem (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze) met at the Grand Rabbinate some days ago. They made an appeal for peace, in which they said that Jewish blood and Palestinian blood are equal, that life is precious because man was created in the image of God. But unfortunately such voices, as also the voices of the (political) left who demonstrated for peace in Tel Aviv and Haifa, are not heard in the midst of the shelling and killing. There are always people who seek peace and pray for peace.
Why do the hawks always win when problems arise?
When the hawks are in power they are the decision makers—so they win. This is the case in Israel now with the rightist party, and this is the case in Gaza with Hamas now.
What do you hope for here?
I pray for an immediate ceasefire but also to negotiate more seriously according to the international resolutions [of the United Nations] and the requirements of the two-state solution.
What is happening to the small Catholic community in Gaza? I see the Pope sent them a message of encouragement on July 17.
They are only 200 people. The Argentinean parish priest, Father George, is a courageous man. He is helping people as best he can. He opened his school to the homeless whose houses were bombed in these last days. The Argentinean sisters in Gaza left, but the sisters of Mother Teresa remained and continue to take care of the handicapped children. The email of the pope to Father George was to tell him that he is close to him and that he prays for him and for his community. And I believe that it is a very nice encouraging message that the pope remembers the parish priest of Gaza and the community.
What is the feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land?
The feeling among the Christians in the Holy Land is one of fear and frustration. They can’t understand that after the visit of the Pope to the Holy Land things didn’t improve but on the contrary they deteriorated. They can’t understand that. The same feeling was noted after the visit of John Paul II in the year 2000. Six months later the second bloody Intifada (uprising) started. But let us agree that it was a logical consequence of the failure at Camp David that same year.
Pope Francis phoned the presidents of Israel and Palestine on July 18. How significant was that?
It’s a nice gesture of the pope who considers them as his friends and men of peace. We expected that he would do such a gesture especially after the prayer encounter at the Vatican Gardens on June 8.
I believe in the effect of prayer even though in the immediate moment we don’t feel any result. We have to continue tirelessly to pray for peace. Prayers alone are not enough, there must also be a serious effort to reach a peace accord. We bishops of the Holy Land repeated many times that we want an immediate cease fire and the restart of peace negotiations.
Mass at Holy Family Church Gaza: