Gaza – With the deadline to evacuate northern Gaza approaching, religious Sisters announced that they were staying with those who are unable to leave.
The Sisters of the Rosary – who have called for renewed prayers for peace – told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that they would be remaining in their convent, which is attached to central Gaza’s only Catholic Parish, the Holy Family, despite the Israeli Defence Forces’ call for everyone in northern Gaza to leave.
Speaking to ACN, Sister Nabila said: “We will not go. People have nothing, not the basic things. Where should we go? To die on the street? We have old people, the Mother Teresa’s Sisters are also here, with people with multiple disabilities and elderly people…
“We need medicines. Many hospitals are destroyed. Where should we go?”
When ACN spoke to them, the parish was sheltering are around 150 Catholics and some 350 Greek Orthodox Christians, whose parish church is near to the Holy Family.
Father Gabriel Romanelli, one of the two priests caring for Roman Catholics in Gaza told ACN: “What will they find in the south of the Gaza Strip? They will find hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Gaza city.
“And there is nothing in the south and the health and humanitarian situation is disastrous with lack of water and food.”
Father Romanelli, who is originally from Argentina, told ACN that many parishioners had no other option but to stay.
He said the parishioners believe that “they are safer with Jesus. And that’s why together they pray, they pray, and hope that the Lord will protect them and that the people who are working and praying for peace will change the decision to strike the church which has always been an oasis of peace.”
Father Romanelli, who was speaking from Bethlehem where he was when the violence first erupted, quoted from chapter three of the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “It is good to hope in silence for the salvation of the Lord”.
The Holy Family Catholic Parish prayed for peace during a candlelight on Saturday.
Sister Nabila has been in contact with Pope Francis. During a phone call with the Pope on Sunday (15th October), she thanked him for his call for peace and his prayers for the suffering people yesterday.
After Sunday’s Angelus Pope Francis again appealed for peace.
He said: “I continue to follow with great sorrow what is happening in Israel and Palestine. I think again of the many – in particular of the children and the elderly.
“I renew my appeal for the freeing of the hostages and I strongly ask that children, the sick, the elderly, women, and all civilians not be made victims of the conflict.
“Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza, where it is urgent and necessary to ensure humanitarian corridors and to come to the aid of the entire population.
“Brothers and sisters, already many have died. Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!”
Pope Francis went on to back an initiative by Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem to observe today (17th October) as a day of fasting and prayer.
By John Newton and Maria Lozano | Zenit