Gaza – This year 722 Palestinian Christians living in the Gaza Strip will be able to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem, in the places that witnessed the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. This was reported to Agenzia Fides by Father Gabriel Romanelli, parish priest of the Holy Family Catholic parish, who expressed his appreciation for the high number of passes to the Holy City granted this year by the Israeli authorities to the baptized from the Gaza Strip on the occasion of the solemnity of Holy Week festivities.
In the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.8 million Palestinians live, there are currently just over 1,070 Christians, most of whom belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. There are 133 Catholics. “We have presented a further list of requests”, Father Gabriel, priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, explains to Fides, “but so far 722 permits have been granted. However, a considerable number. Many people are happy, and so are we. Many people from our Latin parish have received the permit. Some are already leaving. So ours will be a Holy Week celebrated in the parish with very few faithful, but we are happy for our brothers and sisters who will be able to celebrate the resurrection of Christ in the Holy City, together with many Christians from all over the world”.
The parish priest of Gaza is also delighted by the fact that this year the permits have been granted to entire families, so that they will be able to live together the rites of Holy Week in Jerusalem. In previous years it was not like that. Sometimes they only gave permission to the father and not to the mother, or to the children and not to the parents. In addition, the permits granted have a longer validity. These are all positive signs. And we hope that this path of improvement will continue”.
The Latin Catholics in Gaza will celebrate Holy Easter on Sunday, April 17. For the Eastern Churches that follow the Julian calendar, Easter is celebrated a week later this year, on April 24. Before the lockdowns due to the pandemic, the granting of permits by the Israeli authorities for Christians in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the Christmas and Easter ceremonies in the Holy Places of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth had caused sorrow and disappointment. In December 2019, the permits were granted in extremis, just before the Christmas celebration, when many of the beneficiaries had already given up the trip. On that occasion, permits were only granted to people over 55 years of age. As of December 2015, no permits to celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem or Bethlehem were granted to Christians in the Gaza Strip between the ages of 12 and 30.