Gaza - Only the very courageous ones come to Mass
"As a priest, I ask you above all to pray for peace in the Holy Land. I work where the Prince of Peace Jesus Christ was born. But we have no peace here."
With these words, Father Mario da Silva in Gaza recently approached the benefactors of international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The Brazilian cleric works in the Catholic Holy Family Parish in Gaza City. He belongs to the order Institute of the Word Incarnate IVE, which originated in Argentina.
"We also need your material assistance to meet the most basic needs of the refugees, such as water, food and clothing. May God bless your generosity," da Silva continued.
About 900 refugees have found refuge in a Catholic school and are receiving support there.
At present, about 170 Catholics live in the Gaza Strip with its population of 1.8 million. Because of the war, pastoral care is difficult, according to Father Mario.
"In spite of the situation, we celebrate Holy Mass every day and perform Eucharistic adoration. But hardly anyone comes to the church at the moment. On Sundays, there are never more than five people.”
“Only the very courageous ones come. It's simply too dangerous.”
“Because of the bombings people don't dare go out onto the streets and they prefer to stay in their houses. We've therefore started a telephone pastoral service.”
“Every day the pastor and I call the faithful. We ask about the families, how they are, what they need, and we also attempt to give them spiritual courage."
In view of the continuing attacks, the people are desperate, Father Mario said. "The children in particular are very afraid of the bombs."
Alongside the two clerics there are also six nuns living in the parish from the community founded by the Blessed Mother Teresa. They look after mentally and physically disabled children.
ACN supports the Catholic Church in Gaza in its work. At the request of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, $66,800 in emergency aid has now been approved. If you would like to make a donation to ease the suffering in Gaza, please click on the button below.
With picture of a boy among the ruins in Gaza City, taken during the ceasefire between August 5th and August 8th (© ACN)