Gaza Christians Going Without Mass

Border Authorities Deny Entrance to Nuncio

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JERUSALEM, NOV. 24, 2008 ( As Palestinians stranded in Gaza face a humanitarian disaster due to blocked borders, Christians there also face beginning Advent without Mass.

Israeli authorities Sunday refused to allow the papal nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, and two priests of the Latin patriarchate to enter Gaza to celebrate Mass.

The refusal came despite previous coordination with Israeli officials. The nuncio intended to celebrate Christ the King Mass with the faithful there. The parish in Gaza is vacant since the parish priest, Monsignor Manuel Mussallam, was allowed to leave Gaza last week after eight years to visit his family in West Bank.

Meanwhile, as the United Nations marks this week the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People, Caritas said the occasion should act as a moment to reflect on how the peace process can be rekindled in the Holy Land.

Caritas had hoped that the 31st Day of Solidarity, Nov. 29, would be one of celebration with the creation of a Palestinian state and an end to the cycle of violence in the Holy Land, a statement from the aid organization said.

Joseph Donnell, who heads the Caritas Internationalis delegation in New York, affirmed: “Without the political will to reach new demanding levels of local and regional partnerships, the acts of patient waiting can be cast aside as pathetic distractions from peace.

“Without substantive engagement to address the well known root causes of this struggle for an independent state, Palestinian lives remain captive, barely existing in their anguished survival, mentally as well as physically.”

In the mean time, the aid organization continues to try to assist the 1.5 million people in Gaza, for example, bringing doctors and food to the stranded.

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