Cardinal Pizzaballa visits Gaza in show of support, solidarity with ‘suffering population’

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa takes possession of his cardinal title in Rome Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa gives the homily at a Mass in which he took possession of his titular church, St. Onuphrius, in Rome on May 1, 2024. | Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa on Wednesday visited Holy Family Parish in Gaza, with the prelate making the trip for the first time since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in a show of solidarity and support for the small but resilient community.

Pizzaballa “entered Gaza and reached the Parish of the Holy Family for a pastoral visit,” said a press release issued by the patriarchate on Thursday.

Pizzaballa was joined by a small delegation composed of Fra’ Alessandro de Franciscis, the grand hospitaller of the Sovereign Order of Malta, as well as Father Gabriel Romanelli, the parish priest of Holy Family Church. 

The clergy traveled to meet “the suffering population” and to bring a message of “hope, solidarity, and support,” the statement added. 

“The purpose of my visit first of all was to be with them, to embrace them,” Pizzaballa said in a video message published on Thursday by the patriarchate.  

He added that the visit was made in order to “to verify their conditions” and “to see what we can do to improve their conditions.”

During his visit, the cardinal celebrated Mass and paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius in Gaza City, where 18 Palestinians lost their lives in an Oct. 18, 2023, Israeli missile strike

“The visit is also the first stage of a joint humanitarian mission of the Latin Patriarchate and the Sovereign Order of Malta, in collaboration with Malteser International and other partners, aiming at the delivery of lifesaving food and medical help to the population in Gaza,” the patriarchate said. 

A statement issued by the Order of Malta on Thursday noted that “a memorandum of understanding establishing the joint mission was signed between the parties on May 14.”

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October, Holy Family Parish — the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip — has played a crucial role in providing spiritual and humanitarian support to the local war-torn population.

Hundreds of Palestinians have taken refuge in the church since the war began.

On Dec. 16, 2023, two women were killed outside the parish, which the patriarchate attributed to an Israeli sniper. The Israeli Defense Forces denied responsibility for the attack.

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