(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 12.17.2023).- Once again, the Pope took advantage of the visibility provided by St. Peter’s Square to make a public denunciation and issue a call for peace on Sunday, December 17.
Pope Francis highlighted the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza, including the attack on the Catholic parish of the Holy Family. Specifically, the Pope publicly shared the case of a mother and daughter killed by Israel: “A mother and her daughter, Mrs. Nahida Khalil Anton and her daughter Samar Kamal Anton, were killed, and other people were injured by snipers while going to the bathroom. The house of the Sisters of Mother Teresa was damaged, and their generator was hit. Some say, ‘It’s terrorism, it’s war.’ Yes, it is war, it is terrorism. That’s why the Scriptures say, ‘God puts an end to wars… breaks the bows and shatters the spears’ (cf. Ps 46:9). Let us pray to the Lord for peace.”
Additionally, the Pope made an appeal not to forget “our brothers and sisters who suffer because of war, in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, and other conflict zones. May the approach of Christmas strengthen our commitment to open paths of peace. I continue to receive very serious and painful news from Gaza. Unarmed civilians are being bombed and shot. And this has happened even within the parish grounds of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, only families, children, the sick, and disabled, and nuns.”
Regarding the attacks by Jewish forces against Catholics, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement that we provide below:
Around noon today, December 2023,16 a sniper of the IDF murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war. Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety. Seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside the church compound. No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.
Earlier in the morning, a rocket fired from an IDF tank targeted the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa (Missionaries of Charity). The Convent is home to over 54 disabled persons and is part of the church compound, which was signaled as a place of worship since the beginning of the war. The building’s generator (the only source of electricity) and the fuel resources were destroyed. The house was damaged by the resulting explosion and massive fire. Two more rockets, fired by an IDF tank, targeted the same Convent and rendered the home uninhabitable. The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive. In addition, as a result of the heavy bombing in the area, three people were wounded inside the church compound last night. Furthermore, solar panels and water tanks, which are indispensable for the survival of the community, were destroyed.
Together in prayer with the whole Christian community, we express our closeness and condolences to the families affected by this senseless tragedy. At the same time, we cannot but express that we are at a loss to comprehend how such an attack could be carried out, even more so as the whole Church prepares for Christmas.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem follows this developing situation with great concern and shall provide additional information as needed.