Delegation From Latin Patriarchate Says Gaza Resembles Bombed Cities of World War II

Bishop Shomali Says Christians Are Discouraged, Dream of Emigrating

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In the wake of a visit to the region, a delegation from the Latin Patriarchate has compared Gaza to cities destroyed during the Second World War.

Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal Vicar of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins, gave his impression of his brief Sept. 1 visit to Gaza, saying: “We saw things which can only be compared with the situation of cities raised to the ground during the Second World War,” reported Fides.

“It will be years before the city can return to its previous situation,” he said, adding: “This feeds discouragement, dries up hope for the future. Even in the small Christian community, many dream of moving away”. 

The bishop who visited there along with the administrator general of the Patriarchate, Fr. Imad Twal, and the Chancellor of the Patriarchate, Fr. George Ayoub, said: “We visited the district of Sajaya, where 80 percent of homes and other buildings have been reduced to heaps of rubble.”

As the Israelis close the Eretz check point at 3 p.m., they spent only a few hours in Gaza, at which time, they were able to meet members of the small Christian community there.

In addition to meeting the assistant parish priest and the sisters belonging to three congregations operating in Gaza (Institute of the Incarnate Word, Sisters of the Rosary and Sisters of Mother Teresa), the Catholic bishop and the two accompanying priests visited Greek-Orthodox Bishop Alexios, who also remained at his post all through the period of Israeli army incursions. 

“The Orthodox bishop,” Bishop Shomali told Fides, “gave us a truly fraternal welcome and he praised the efficient work of Caritas, the Pontifical Mission and Catholic Relief Service for assisting the people during and after weeks of military operations”.

In addition, the patriarchal delegation also went to see the Anglican Hospital which in the past two months has assisted more than 4,000 injured persons. 

The Palestinian bishop said people are «relieved» that the ceasefire still holds. Fishermen, with permits to fish inside six miles from the coast, come in every morning laden with catch, and by eight o’clock have sold everything.

“The possibility to provide food with the work of their own hands, and the prospect of finding more work in the task of rebuilding, helps kindle a little hope,” he said, especially given that “even the young people there have already seen 3 military campaigns against Gaza and each time the destruction is greater than the time before.”

Though members of the patriarchal delegation did not meet political representatives, following conversations with Christians and Muslims, they sensed growing hostility towards Israel, because, as Bishop Shomali said, “war can never sow love.”

At the same time, consensus regarding Hamas whose strategy has been widely criticized, even by the President of the Palestinian National Authorities, Abu Mazen, appears by no means unanimous.

Concluding, Jerusalem’s Patriarchal Vicar said: “There were even some, who with bitter irony, remarked: ‘Now Gaza is destroyed, and all we have gained is the chance to eat a little fish.’”

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