Catholic priest leads flock through the violence in Gaza

2014-07-31 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) While more than 200 thousand Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in Gaza since the conflict began, with the number growing daily, other inhabitants are staying put despite the almost constant bombardments.  Among them is Fr George Hernandez, pastor of the Catholics in Gaza, at Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he cares for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home.

Fr. Hernandez spoke to Vatican Radio where he described the situation on the ground and how the war has struck the Catholic community:

“Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there have been some major damage to our rectory and parish school”.

“We cannot move, How can you move thirty handicapped children and nine elderly? You absolutely cannot! Also, since they are not orphans, we are not their guardians and without permission from their parents we cannot move them. And even then, it is dangerous to walk the streets. So here we are, trying to resist,” he said.

Fr. Hernandez expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis, who personally extended messages of encouragement to he and his community in recent days:

“It is a comfort to know of the Pope’s nearness to us. We need someone to say, “this is enough!” and put an end to this massacre. We had the grace of a kind gesture by the Pope. A couple days ago, he sent us a message that expressed his closeness to the parish and his prayers for all Christians. We gave the news to all the parishioners and Christians and it was for them a relief.” 

“Unfortunately, the  Pope is not always listened to. The other day, we experienced a tragedy. The house of a Christian family was bombed, the mother is dead, the father was injured and the eldest brother is fighting for his life in the hospital. The hospitals in Gaza lack the means, space, and necessary instruments. This is our situation,” he said.

When asked about a truce, Fr. Hernandez stressed that Gaza has not had any peace, as all timelines of truce agreements have been broken. He said, “Unfortunately, we have not benefit from any appeals for a ceasefire because the violence has not ceased. It is one thing to say something at the theoretical level, it is another thing to live it.

Listen to the report by Andrew Summerson: 

(From archive of Vatican Radio)