The prayer of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. / Credit: Marinella Bandini
Jerusalem, Oct 20, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).
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.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. He’s the Primate of all England and leader of the Anglican Communion. Oct. 20, 2023. Credit: Marinella Bandini
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.”
Opening procession of the prayer of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni
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 Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr inside, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Oct. 20, 2023. Credit: Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni
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.
After the prayer of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. From left to right: Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem; Mar Yacoub Ephrem Semaan, patriarchal vicar of the Syriac Catholic Church; Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury; and Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini
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. 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.”
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.”
A group photo of the patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem after the prayer they celebrated together on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Credit: Marinella Bandini
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.