Cardinal Pizzaballa’s visit to Gaza

His Beatitude Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, addresses Fr. Ibrahim Nino, Director of the Media Office, about his pastoral visit to Gaza, which took place from May 15th to the 19th, 2024. 

I entered Gaza during the week of Pentecost, in which we pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For sure, it was a great blessing to be with the parishioners of Gaza. I was among my people who are currently enduring much suffering from the war and the destruction it has left. I brought with me the promise of a new life, and I was very surprised that they were the ones who taught me a lesson I will never forget: their steadfast faith, carried with heartwarming smiles, left a mark on me and my life.  

I saw hope and optimism in their eyes. They told me, “We will stay here. As long as the church stands with us, we are not afraid.”  I was really impressed by their attitude. 

I conducted a pastoral visit to verify the conditions of the Christian community in Gaza. The scale of the destruction I witnessed is unbelievable, and the poor living conditions, such as the lack of water and electricity and the absence of security, are dire. The sound of bombing is frequent and is felt at every moment. Despite this, I saw unity among them, organizing their daily lives in the monastery, and managing their use of electricity, water, and food so that nothing would be lacking. 

I visited the Orthodox Church, prayed with them, and spent time at the monastery to meet all its residents, together with their parish priest and their bishop, who have been very welcoming. The situation is equally terrible for all. I spoke to them about their daily lives and aspirations once the war ends and peace is established. 

I did not hesitate to visit and bless the bakery, owned by a Christian family, that had recently resumed its operations, and serves everyone in the community, even if in small and sometimes insufficient quantities. The perseverance of the faithful of Gaza in celebrating Mass and adoring Christ in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, without any interruptions or weariness, has indeed lifted their spirits and instilled in them strength, hope, and joy. 

I also visited the cemetery, where I blessed the graves of the faithful departed, especially the martyrs Nahida and Samar, who were killed by a sniper near the monastery. 

At the end of my visit, I celebrated the Feast of Pentecost with the parish of Gaza, on Sunday, May 19th, 2024, and administered the sacrament of Confirmation to two parishioners, George and Salama. During my homily, I emphasized two important things: the necessity of maintaining unity among each other, which I saw and bear witness to. And the crucial role played by the priests and sisters in the community in the past period. I also urged them, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep the flame of hope alive in their hearts and lives, and assured them that as a church, we will not abandon them and will be among the first to help rebuild Gaza and assist its people in achieving a dignified life. 

What else can I say: I want to send a clear message to decision-makers. Enough killing! The war must end, and avenues for various aid must be opened to avoid an imminent humanitarian crisis. I hope this nightmare ends quickly.