The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has expressed his sorrow and pain for the victims of the air strike which hit the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church compound in Gaza City on Thursday.
The strike resulted in the collapse of a building adjacent to the church where some 400 people, mainly Christians, were sheltering.
The death toll now stands at 18, with several others injured.
War and bombs never solve problems
“The pain of those families, who have already been suffering for a long time, is enormous and we are with them. We pray that this situation ends as soon as possible,” Cardinal Pizzaballa told Italian Catholic television TV2000.
“Let’s hope that reason returns to those who make decisions,” he added. “War and bombs have never solved problems, on the contrary they always create new ones.”
Many families from the Greek Orthodox compound have now moved to the neighbouring Holy Family Catholic parish church, which already shelters other civilians seeking refuge.
Catholics in Gaza are going to stay put
Patriarch Pizzaballa explained that the 1,000-strong Catholic community in Gaza has decided to stay regardless of dangers.
“First of all because they don’t know where to go and then because they say that no place in the Gaza Strip is safe,” he said.
The Patriarch noted that despite all that is going on their faith remains unwavered even under the bombs.
Solidarity from Patriarch Bartholomew
On Friday morning, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople held a phone conversation with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III to express his condolences for the victims and his best wishes for a speedy recovery of the injured.
According to a statement released by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomew conveyed his support for the “tragic events” in the Holy Land, while expressing hope that “peace and security may be restored as soon as possible for everyone in the Middle East.”
For his part, Theophilos III thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for his concern and support, describing to him “the grim situation in the region”.
Unlike the strike on the e Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City that killed hundreds on 17 October, the Israeli military has confirmed that the Thursday blast was the result of its airstrike, saying it targeted a militant command centre nearby and that it was reviewing the incident.
Several head of Churches, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), have strongly condemned both strikes.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is paying a brief visit to Jerusalem to show solidarity with Anglicans after an explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday, saying: “I join with my brother in Christ, Patriarch Theophilos III, in horror and grief that the Orthodox Church compound in Gaza was struck last night.”
The WCC on Friday also expressed grave concern upon reports from the Palestinian Red Crescent of a request from Israeli authorities for the immediate evacuation of Al Quds Hospital in Gaza, which currently assists 400 patients and where 12,000 civilians have sought refuge.
Places of worship and hospitals must be protected areas
WCC moderator Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said the WCC takes this call very seriously and urged the Israeli government and military to refrain from doing anything that endangers the lives of innocent civilians in a protected space such as a hospital.
“Hospitals are protected under international law,” said Bedford-Strohm. “Any attack on them would be a war crime.”
By Lisa Zengarini | vaticannews