Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Tuesday, 9 July 2024
Gaza’s parish enters into nine months of war: The power of faith and community amid suffering :

Nine months have passed since October 7, indeed, unprecedented times, notably for the Christian community of Gaza, who witnessed several trials and pains. Unified in faith they stand, sheltered in the house of God they dwell, cared for by those who dedicated their life to the service of others.


The Holy Family parish in Gaza welcomed back its pastor, Fr. Gabriel Romanalli, IVE, in May along with Fr. Carlos Ferrero, IVE, the Provincial Superior of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, who chose to accompany Fr. Romanalli “to be close to the religious and the people”.


Speaking to the Media Office of the Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Ferrero updated us on the life of the parish in Gaza, sharing stories of a joint effort between the religious and laity to help sustain the community’s welfare in these difficult times.


How has your return with Fr. Gabriel impacted the community?

The first and most important influence was the visit of our Patriarch, which gave the people courage and, most importantly, hope.

I cannot put into words how Fr. Romanalli’s return to the Parish has been impactful. It has been a great source of relief not only for the faithful but also for Fr. Jusuf, who has been serving the Parish alone since the beginning of the war.

Since 2019, I have visited the Parish of Gaza many times, being a provincial superior, but to my surprise, my presence here at this hour has had its own impact. I realized this when people began asking me if I was going away when the Patriarch had to return. “Are you going away? Are you staying for some time? How long will you stay?” When I told them that I had come to stay for as much as God allowed me to be here, they became pleased, and I realized that it gave them hope that something good had taken place. Even if I have done nothing to create expectation or fault hope, it is just the fact that I am here with them, sharing their daily fears and sufferings, praying together daily amid great noise. 


Could you share with us the state of the community in Gaza, in general, and what you are doing to endure?

The people are exhausted, but they must bear the situation. They lost interest in the development of the process for obvious reasons. The only thing they experience is suffering. They hear a good word and next it is all the opposite. They are tired of that! We try our best to be near everyone. Sometimes just to hear what they have to say, sharing with them words of comfort, helping with things as best as we can.

Because there is no schooling going on, Fr. Gabriel put together support classes, teaching the main subjects of school to the children. They included English and asked me to help with that. I now teach children between first and fourth grade. The children are very affected by these nine months of war and the lack of school. The nerves are upside down. Little by little they are coming to be more interested, and they are learning the basics. Among us there is a good teacher, Ms. Sherin, a real educator, who has been helping with the translation and methodologies. Since they are young, they don’t understand if I speak only in English. That’s when Ms. Sherin gives great input and helps all of us. Nevertheless, we try as much as we can to make studying a fun activity. We try!

I often visit the sick people and give them Holy Communion and the anointing of the sick for those willing to receive it. I also like to go daily to the Home of Charity where many special-needs children are under the care of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters. There are some elderly people as well. They are very happy to receive a simple greeting, which makes a great difference for them. When there is political upheaval nearby, I try to be seen and close to everyone as much as possible.

The committee, which Fr. Yusuf put together from the beginning of the war, was very helpful in organizing the compound according to the possibilities and the people's cooperation.

Finally, some youngsters are helping the sisters to organize games and activities for the Parish.

Every day there is something to do. The fact that we can move around, and see one another, is a blessing as they know the Sisters and Fathers are there for them and with them.


Any testimonies you would like to share from the Parish?

I want to share some testimonies, maybe with a few words but with great meaning.

Considering how the people and teachers came together at Fr. Gabriel's call to help the children with the lessons so that they could maintain their knowledge is a testimony of their willingness, love, and strong will. Although it is not easy and we do not have all the means, they made it happen.

A lady told one of our Sisters: “Outside there is destruction and death, here, inside there is life!”. Despite all the obstacles and differences people may find here, it is better to be “in the house of Jesus”, the Parish.

One of the men shared with the Patriarch during his visit and said, " We Christians don’t have this violence in our blood. That is why we don’t understand this fighting!” Yes, we have our own misunderstandings and struggles for different things. We might quarrel, but never like this.”

Fr. Ferrero ended, saying: “We count on your prayers! We pray for you and thank you. We pray for the end of the war and for a better future in peace! May God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, grant us this!”