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Pope thanks Patriarch of Jerusalem for 'closeness' to people amid ravages of war in Gaza

February 7, 2024 at 4:39 pm

Pope Francis celebrates a mass for the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, Vatican on January 06, 2024 [Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency]

Pope Francis thanked the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for the closeness he has shown to local people since the beginning of the war in Gaza, said an official Vatican news outlet on Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a phone call with Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Pope expressed “his constant care” for the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza, as reported by Vatican News.

The Pontiff has been in almost daily contact with the parish priest, Father Gabriel Romanelli, and the associate pastor, Father Youssef Assad, for updates on the situation.

The Holy Family Parish, served by priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, is the only Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip.

The enclave is mired in a humanitarian crisis that has seen more than a million people displaced after their homes were destroyed, amid a severe shortage of food and other necessities.

The parish faces the same shortages and cannot provide central heating amid the harsh winter conditions. However, it has continued to shelter hundreds of displaced people.

In December, Francis condemned Israel’s killing of two women sheltering at the parish. An Israeli sniper shot the women “without warning” and “in cold blood”, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said in a statement. Only local Christians and families, nuns and the sick or disabled stay at the church, said Francis, not any “terrorists”.

Israel launched an offensive on Gaza following a 7 October cross-border attack by Hamas, killing at least 27,708 Palestinians and injuring 67,174 others, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli offensive has left 85 per cent of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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