Father Gabriel Romanelli returns to Gaza to provide spiritual and material support in the midst of war

Despite the devastating humanitarian crisis, Father Gabriel Romanelli, the parish priest of the Holy Family parish in Gaza, has made the courageous decision to return to Gaza and stand by his community. Regardless of the dangers and challenges that lie ahead, Father Gabriel is determined to provide spiritual, moral, and material assistance to those in need, whatever their religious affiliation.

“Thank you very much for your support during this time. I have been able to return to my parish, the Holy Family in Gaza. It is difficult to explain my feelings because I have been a missionary in Gaza for almost 19 years and now, when I was finally able to come back, many of my people are no longer here,” Father Gabriel Romanelli tells the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). However, the priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, feels that he has a purpose in working tirelessly to do everything he can to alleviate the suffering and bring hope to those who have been affected by the war.

Fr. Gabriel Romanelli in the parish of the Holy Family during the war
Fr. Gabriel Romanelli in the parish of the Holy Family during the war

The recent conflict in Gaza has left a trail of destruction and loss, with countless lives shattered. The Christian community, Orthodox and Catholic, has become much smaller. Some Christians were able to flee across the Egyptian border, but Father Gabriel mourns “the loss in the Christian community of 36 individuals, 20 of whom died due to Israeli army bombings or sniper fire. The others primarily succumbed to the lack of medicine. We lost a child from Mother Teresa’s orphanage. So yes, it is painful, but at the same time, we know they are with God. They are present in Heaven to intercede for peace, justice, and forgiveness of sins for all of us and for those engaged in war.”

The Argentine priest was in Bethlehem when the terrible conflict began. After more than seven months in Jerusalem, during which time he was unable to return to his parish, he accompanied His Beatitude Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, on his visit to Gaza from 15 to 19 May.

Asked why he wants to stay in Gaza, while most of the people wish to leave the war zone, Father Gabriel explains to ACN that his mission is rooted in his faith and the guidance of his superiors. He firmly believes that his place is in Gaza, where he can provide spiritual, moral, and existential support to Christians, Muslims, and people of all backgrounds.

“I want to stay here because this is my mission,” the missionary says. “While I may be called to serve elsewhere in the future, I am convinced that, for now, my duty as a pastor and parish priest is to be here, offering assistance in every possible way.”

Christians of the Gaza Strip during the war, parish of the Holy Family
Christians of the Gaza Strip during the war, parish of the Holy Family

Amidst the chaos, Father Gabriel and his community continue to pray fervently for an end to the scourge of war that plagues humanity. They firmly believe that war is not the will of God but the result of human actions. Their prayers extend to all victims, and they tirelessly advocate for justice, peace, and reconciliation. “I am not a saviour. Our Saviour is our Lord Jesus Christ, but I feel that here, at least, I can do something so no one is left behind and sow a little justice and peace. We must speak out for justice, peace, and the liberation of those deprived of freedom. We need the entry of humanitarian aid to heal the thousands of wounded and to see the displaced return to their homes within the Gaza Strip. In the same way, the thousands of displaced people from northern Israel should be able to return to their homes.”

Recognising the immense challenges faced by the people of Gaza, Father Gabriel thanks organisations such as Aid to the Church in Need and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for facilitating the delivery of much-needed assistance. Father Gabriel expresses his gratitude to Aid to the Church in Need, stating, “the situation in the cities is terrible, without a single structure that has not been damaged. Here in the parish, we have around 500 refugees. Of these about 50 individuals, primarily children, are under the care of the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Additionally, we provide assistance to thousands of people in the neighbourhood, offering water, food, and medicine. We thank ACN’s benefactors for all that they do, and encourage them to continue providing spiritual, existential, and material aid to console the suffering Heart of Jesus in all those who suffer. May the Virgin Mary bless us, and thank you again for everything.”

 

By Maria Lozano & Christophe Lafontaine.

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