Envoy Brings Pope's Aid and Closeness to Gaza

Says Solidarity Can Prepare the Way for Peace and Reconciliation

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ROME, JAN. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Aid from Benedict XVI was carried to Gaza on Wednesday by the apostolic delegate to Jerusalem, who visited and distributed help among the Catholic assistance centers.

«I visited the center of Gaza and saw much destruction,» Archbishop Antonio Franco explained to SIR news agency.

He continued: «Nevertheless, outskirts have been the most damaged. For what I have seen, it looks like the Israeli withdrawal is about to be completed.

«We celebrated Mass in the Holy Family parish that was packed with faithful. I brought them the closeness, the prayers and the solidarity of Pope Benedict even through his personal aid aimed at relieving the suffering of those days.

«Solidarity is fundamental in this moment for it is a useful instrument for creating the conditions for peace and reconciliation.»

Israel declared Sunday a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after three weeks of fighting that is estimated to have caused the deaths of 1,300 Palestinians and about a dozen Israelis.

In Gaza, the archbishop met with Father Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Church, with the Missionaries of Charity, and with other religious who serve the most vulnerable. He listened to many people tell of their «fear and sufferings.»

The delegate, also apostolic nuncio in Israel and delegate before the Palestinian authorities, stated that «the population is holding the hope that this truce can last, that life will go back to normal and that efforts will be made to achieve real peace.»

«People are longing for peace,» he added, «people are tired of this situation and of the uncertainty of tomorrow.»

Archbishop Franco made reference to Tuesday’s inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama: «I hope politics will focus, at least a bit, on the suffering of people and will try to give them answers, without turning into a power game.

«It is urgent to deal with the population’s rights, needs and aspirations. I think Obama said it yesterday: We need real solutions to the problems facing humanity.»

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