Christians united in prayer and solidarity for Gaza and the Holy Land. CNA—Jerusalem—The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has arrived in the Holy Land in a solidarity visit to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. His visit began Friday, Oct. 20.
Just two days earlier, on the evening of Oct. 17, the Al Ahli Anglican Hospital in Gaza was hit. There have been ongoing exchanges of accusations between Hamas and Israel regarding the attack.
Two days after that, on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 19, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza caused the collapse of a building inside the nearby compound of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius. There are currently 18 casualties reported and several dozen injured, some of them severe, and there is fear that the death toll may rise in the coming hours. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has issued a statement condemning the incident.
A statement from the Israeli military on Friday said that the church was not the intended target of the airstrike, but a Hamas command center near the church. “As a result of the IDF strike, a wall of a church in the area of the center was damaged,” the statement said. “We are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review. The IDF can unequivocally state that the church was not the target of the strike.”
Anglican, Orthodox Patriarchs in Jerusalem gather to pray for peace
On Friday evening, in the Anglican Cathedral of St. George the Martyr, all the patriarchs and heads of the churches of Jerusalem gathered for a communal, private prayer. This was a way to express solidarity with the churches most affected by the recent tragedies and to lift up their prayers together to God for peace in the Holy Land.
The prayer service was led by the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Hosam Naum, and the final blessing was given by the archbishop of Canterbury. Anglican bishops and priests wore black vestments.
Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa in sorrow, solidarity
In an interview during the event with the Italian television TV2000, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa expressed his sorrow for the tragedy at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius in Gaza.
“We are living in great sorrow,” lamented Cardinal Pizzaballa. “The pain of those families, who have already been enduring for a long time, is immense, and we stand with them. We pray that this situation ends as soon as possible.”
500 remain refuged in Gaza parish church: Despite bombs Gaza Catholics, strong faith unshaken
Pizzaballa also didn’t hide his concern for the at least 500 people who have taken refuge in the Latin parish of Gaza, the Church of the Holy Family.
“We know that the area and the neighborhood are military targets. Warnings have been issued,” he said to TV2000. “Our community, which is well-informed, has decided to stay. They don’t know where to go and say that no place in the Gaza Strip is safe. So they prefer to stay there, pray, and trust in God. It’s very moving to see how, despite everything, they maintain a strong faith, which hasn’t been shaken even by these bombs.”
Release of American hostages
Meanwhile, in the evening, news came of the release of two American hostages: Nathalie and Judith Raanan from Evanston, Illinois. According to Israeli media, they have already been transferred to Egypt and will soon be repatriated to the United States.
Currently, 202 people remain as hostages in the hands of Hamas.
Journalist Marinella Bandini was born and raised in Italy and is currently based in Jerusalem.