The grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, concluded on Jan. 3 a five-day visit to the Holy Land, where the Christian minority is feeling the effects of the lack of pilgrimages due to the war.
In a YouTube Italian video posted by Vatican News, the cardinal said that “the lack of pilgrims has been weighing very heavily on them [Christians].”
Filoni explained that the absence of pilgrimages is not only felt “from a religious point of view” but also economically, with “serious repercussions” on families, especially those “who make their living from this contact with pilgrims.”
However, he noted that in the midst of isolation, “a very strong sense of prayer” has developed among Christians. This spiritual sustenance has not been lacking from all those who in some way have accompanied us on our journey.”
On Oct. 7, 2023, the day Hamas attacked southern Israel, countless pilgrims were trapped by bombing, border closures, and flight cancellations. The consequence for the small Christian population has been the suspension of pilgrimages along with the effects that has brought.
In the case of the approximately 1,000 Christians in the Gaza Strip, religious facilities have suffered the consequences of the fighting, as in the case of Holy Family Catholic Parish.
In a statement to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Alessandro Monteduro, director of the Italian office of Aid to the Church in Need, said that in Gaza the homes of 53 Christian families have been destroyed and the school of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary was damaged.
After recalling the case of the two women killed at Holy Family Parish, Monteduro noted that in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank — where Bethlehem is located — 5,000 Christians have lost their jobs due to businesses closing up.