GAZA – The Bishop representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of various parts of the world ended a two day visit to the Gaza Strip this morning, Monday, January 13.
It was a short but important visit. On Sunday, January 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Eucharistic celebration in the parish of Gaza began about two hours late, due to the slow transition through the Erez checkpoint. The parishioners had been waiting patiently for the arrival of the delegation of 12 bishops, priests and other representatives of the Churches worldwide who were greeted with the usual local warm hospitality. At the conclusion of the celebration everyone was delighted with the mutual meeting.
Two further beautiful visits characterized this tour, led by the heads of Catholic Relief Services. The first was at the school of crafts for children of the refugee camps run by the Near East Council of Churches. The second was in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, to see the famous “tunnel” now closed. As is widely known, this was a way, in some cases the only way, to get products into Gaza from Egypt. The inhabitants of Rafah explained that this is a major problem that must be solved, otherwise many people will be without food and medicine!
The visit to an association that takes care of the deaf and handicapped concluded the first full day of excitement and surprises, even for the bishops. They did not expect to find such a great desolation!
On Monday morning, the Bishops celebrated Mass with the priests of Gaza at which the religious sisters participated. The Delegation paid a visit to the work of the Sisters of Mother Teresa who welcome children with problems and the elderly living alone and abandoned. An extraordinary charitable work that moved several members of the Delegation. Upon departing there were hugs full of affection and gratitude to Father Mario da Silva and all the sisters .
If this visit will not bring major changes for Gazans, it will definitely remain vividly in the hearts of the Bishops and other Delegation members. When one comes to Gaza, and sees firsthand the situation, one cannot remain indifferent upon returning home! That’s what has happened to the shepherds in Bethlehem on Christmas night and that is what has happened to our pastors in Gaza !
Article by: Padre Mario Cornioli