Holy Land: ‘We are living like the first Christians, sharing and helping everyone’

According to Father Gabriel Romanelli, “there are over 1,500 people trapped under the rubble, including 800 children.”

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) continues to follow the Holy Land closely, particularly the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Church of the Holy Family is the only Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip and has become a refuge center for many Christians who have fled the bombings, including a group of more than 200 people in the wake of the destruction of a nearby Orthodox Church.

Father Gabriel Romanelli has been the parish priest in Gaza for the past four years. When this terrible conflict began, Father Gabriel was away in Bethlehem, and he is now following the situation from Jerusalem, where he does all he can to help the community.

What is the current situation in the Gaza Strip?

It remains critical, because the bombing continues day and night, and the numbers of dead and wounded continue to rise. The death tally in Gaza is already above 5,000, with 15,000 wounded. And we believe there are more than 1,500 people under the rubble, including 800 children. Each dead person, wounded person, and hostage is a source of great pain and a tremendous injustice. You can only imagine the people’s state of mind. They cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

How is the Christian community of Gaza holding up?

The situation in the Church of the Holy Family, which is entrusted to the Institute of the Incarnate Word, is generally good. But the bombing of the Greek Orthodox Church compound left 18 dead and had a strong effect on both the Christians who are staying in the parish and the wider Christian community.

A recent Mass at Holy Family Church

Out of the 2.3 million people in Gaza, only 1,000 are Christians, and we are all friends. We know each other; we work together; we are members of the same parish groups. These people are all cousins, relatives, brothers, and sisters. The Christian community in Gaza was deeply affected, and now there are more than 700 of us in the church, including children with disabilities. But the community is well. They are living like the first Christians, sharing whatever they can find and helping whoever they can. They also opened other Catholic schools for people to stay in, and there are more than 2,500 people staying at the Holy Family school, which is in another neighborhood.

What do the Christians of Gaza ask from the rest of the world?

Our Christians, like everybody else, ask for prayers, that the Lord have mercy on us all and grant us peace. They also ask that people speak about this conflict, and that all people, be they politicians, diplomats, or journalists,use words of peace and reconciliation. Finally, they ask that the world ensure freedom for all and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

How can people help them?

Through prayer, spreading the word, and material aid. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is opening an official aid channel to provide as many people as possible with material aid, water, fuel for electricity, and other resources. Before the war, we only had four hours of electricity per day, and now we have nothing. I invite you to be generous, so that we can help as many people as we can.

We know that Pope Francis has contacted you many times. What do you talk about?

The Holy Father called me and the parish in Gaza many times to tell us that he is close, that he is praying, and that he is concerned. He gave us his blessing and asked us to take care of the children who are entrusted to us. We are grateful to the Pope and to the millions of people of good will all over the world, who are praying, making sacrifices, and working for peace and justice. May the Lord bless you, and may Our Lady, Queen of Peace, grant peace to all.

—Maria Lozano