Gaza’s parish priest overjoyed to return to Holy Family parish

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Since 7 October 2023, Father Gabriel Romanelli has been separated from his parishioners who are living in the most challenging conditions at the compound of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza City.

The mere fact of postponing his departure by one day from the West Bank where he was collecting medicine for a nun, initially scheduled for 6 October, prevented his return due to the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

The priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) was only able to return on the occasion of the visit of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, from 16-19 May.

The joy of returning

In these months of war, Gaza has been reduced to a heap of rubble, experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe that has killed many, especially children. Many died not only due to injury, but also dehydration and malnutrition.

In this dramatic situation, “the Lord has given an enormous blessing,” Fr. Romanelli told Vatican News, “Cardinal Pizzaballa managed to visit the parish he knows very well, as well as the families. He entered all the homes of many Catholic and Orthodox families.”

Fr. Romanelli said he feels “great joy” for being able to return with the Patriarch’s delegation. “I am in the parish and will stay here,” he promised.

Fr. Carlos Ferrero, also from the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), and a nun from the same religious family, accompanied him on his return.

Serenity despite destruction

In Gaza, destruction and pain are sometimes mitigated by the calmness of the people.

“The situation is paradoxical; there is serenity among many of our parishioners,” Fr. Romanelli explained. “Despite the truly enormous suffering, they remain serene and place themselves in the hands of the Lord. Of course, they are very concerned about what will happen. Some are sick, some are injured, many have left, and some are thinking of leaving, but many, many, many are thinking of staying.”

The priest, along with the laity of the parish, is resolved to do everything possible to support those who remain.

To date, there are still 500 Christians taking refuge in the compound, as well as the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Their help extends also to the neighbouring Muslims.

Pope Francis’ support

The commitment of the Christians there is rewarded by the continual support of Pope Francis.

“The Holy Father calls every day to give us words of comfort and his blessing,” said Fr. Romanelli. “He asks us to protect the children and always encourages us to keep going.”

The parish priest prayed that “peace may reign over Palestine, over Israel, and that the Lord may grant the necessary ceasefire, even though it seems impossible, as a first step towards justice and peace.”

He concluded by expressing his hope that “humanitarian aid can be delivered, all hostages and those deprived of freedom can be released, and thousands, thousands of injured people can receive treatment.”