Parish priest in Gaza: ‘We have endured relentless Calvary for months’

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“The situation continues to be extremely grave and worsens by the hour. Our Christians have faith and hope in the Essential, in Jesus Christ,” according to Fr. Gabriel Romanelli.

“They have been enduring relentless Calvary for months,” he adds.

The parish priest of the only Catholic parish in Gaza explains how the rest of the population feels greatly disheartened, as there are no visible signs of peace or an end to violence and death.

In an interview with SIR, an Italian Catholic news agency, Fr. Romanelli laments the terrible toll of the war, saying, “This conflict has already resulted in more than 32,000 deaths, 12,000 of which are children.”

He himself has been stuck in Jerusalem since the war broke out on October 7, yet he constantly stays in touch with his parishioners in every possible way.

The members of the parish have been taking refuge for months in the parish compound along with other displaced Christians, totalling about 600, who have lost everything in the bombings.

A scene of desperation

Fr. Romanelli spoke of reports from inside Gaza which he has received from his parochial vicar, Fr. Youssef Asaad, who remains in the parish.

“You cannot imagine the pain we are experiencing and the desperation of the people,” Fr. Asaad said.

He described the scene in the area surrounding the parish in Gaza City, with mountains of rubble, garbage, and burst sewers. The rain that continues to fall is a blessing on the one hand, but worsens the hygienic conditions as it causes high humidity, intensifying the smell of decomposed bodies that are still under the rubble.

“Despite everything,” adds Fr. Romanelli, “they pray for peace every day and offer their suffering and hardships for a ceasefire and the release of the hostages.”

Referring to his parish in Gaza, the parish priest reported that the kitchen had reopened, yet it is still very dangerous for people to venture out.

“Humanitarian aid,” he explains, “airdropped by the USA and other international countries, as well as those arriving by sea, haven’t reached everyone. They haven’t reached the parish. However, some parishioners managed to obtain flour, and the oven has resumed producing bread. This is a great blessing for our displaced people. The Latin Patriarchate also provides assistance. Our hope is that we can return to cooking twice a week.”

Threat of famine

Once again, UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, has intervened on the dire humanitarian situation.

The regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Adele Khodr, says the lack of action by the world is shocking, while children succumb to a slow death.

Oxfam, a British aid agency, has also sounded the alarm, speaking of “catastrophic levels of hunger in Gaza.”

According to Paolo Pezzati, spokesperson for Oxfam Italy’s humanitarian crises: “Never before have we witnessed such a grave situation unfolding in such a short time. In a few days, the population in the north of Gaza will be facing a real famine, a situation that will also arise in the south very soon without a ceasefire and an adequate humanitarian response.”