Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, was among the participants in a special Way of the Cross held on Friday, 27 October, and presided over by the Latin Patriarch Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa in the Old City of Jerusalem, as part of the Day of prayer, fasting and penance for peace in the Holy Land and in the world called by Pope Francis.
The Egyptian-born Franciscan friar has been following and keeping a record of the last three weeks’ events from Jerusalem.
Fr. Faltas’ last contact with the Catholic parish of the Holy Family in Gaza was on Friday evening when Israeli bombardments cut off all communications with the Strip.
In a report he sent to Italian Catholic news agency Sir, he described the sense of desperation felt by the local Christian community after learning about the latest developments of the conflict.
Worst night since 7 October
“The world came together, prayed, shared the pain of the atrocity of war, but at the end of this day of unity we fell into deep despair,” he said. “This was the worst night since 7 October” (the day of Hamas’ attack on Israel, ed.).
In his testimony, Father Faltas also spoke about the psychological trauma experienced in particular by children and young people, and the efforts of the Patriarchate to keep schools open.
“In Jerusalem, we had reopened schools, partly to give children and teenagers a few hours of respite from fear and tension in a healthy and peaceful place, but this support has been denied,” he lamented.
The Vicar described the violence seen in the past three weeks as hell on earth, saying “it is not an excessive comparison”.
“Hell is visible in the pictures of the dead and injured, of the destruction of homes, churches and mosques, hospitals, schools. We hear it with the emergency warning sirens on the background. We sense it in the heavy air that smells of death and suffering. The innocent victims of this war do not deserve the hell on earth they are living,” Fr. Faltas remarked.