Walking in faith: Eight children receive first Communion in northern Gaza  — By: Catholic News Agency

Eight children received their first Communion at Holy Family Church on Jan. 7, 2024, in northern Gaza. / Credit: Father Gabriel Romanelli/Facebook

CNA Staff, Jan 11, 2024 / 09:33 am (CNA).

In the midst of war and suffering, the Catholic faithful of Holy Family Parish in northern Gaza continue to walk in the light of faith. Eight children received their first holy Communion this past Sunday in the church.

“Despite the incredibly harsh conditions our people in Gaza endure as the relentless war is close to 100 days of destruction and killing, life heroically continues in Gaza for our faithful,” wrote Sami H. El-Yousef, CEO at the ‎Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in a Facebook post.

Since no supplies are currently coming into northern Gaza, hosts for holy Communion are now being prepared in a makeshift “factory” of sorts, according to El-Yousef. 

A religious sister in northern Gaza assists with the making of hosts being prepared in a makeshift “factory” since no supplies are coming from the outside. Credit: Father Gabriel Romanelli/Facebook

In addition, in a gesture of solidarity and friendship, a group of Catholic faithful from the parish walked this past weekend to St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church, a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City that is reportedly the oldest active church in the city, to bring their congratulations for the Orthodox Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 7. 

A group of Catholic faithful in northern Gaza went to the St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church to wish them congratulations for the Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on Jan. 7. Credit: Father Gabriel Romanelli/Facebook

Catholics in northern Gaza have endured great hardship since the war broke out. Many parishioners reportedly chose to seek refuge in the parish compound rather than assume the risks of fleeing south.

Just before Christmas, on Dec. 16, mother and daughter parishioners Nahida and Samar Anton were killed outside the church within the parish compound as they walked to the nearby convent of the Missionaries of Charity. Witnesses said they were killed by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sniper, but the IDF has denied responsibility.

The day before their deaths, rockets were fired, reportedly from an IDF tank, that hit the convent, rendering the home uninhabitable for the disabled residents who live there and the sisters, according to the Latin Patriarchate. CNA previously reported images of the attack, which were taken with cell phones by eyewitnesses and sent to Father Gabriel Romanelli, the pastor of Holy Family Parish, who is currently in Jerusalem and unable to return to his flock. 

Romanelli told CNA in a previous report that resources are scarce for the faithful there and fear and tension had increased with the ongoing violence and recent attacks. Parishioners, however, continue to organize themselves to help with survival needs: the procurement of food, cooking, cleaning, child care, caring for the sick, and maintenance of the church and liturgical services.

As the parish community was preparing for Christmas, Romanelli told CNA: “They are doing what they must do, with great faith and great hope in heaven.”

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