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Pope Francis phones Gaza parish priest after Israel announces a siege

Fr. Gabriel Romanelli, Parish Priest of Holy Family, talks about Christian community in Gaza on December 18, 2019 and Pope Francis speaks on a cell phone, given to him by his aide Piergiorgio Zanetti, at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. AP PHOTO/RICCARDO DE LUCA

Pope Francis reached out to Father Gabriel Romanelli, Priest of Holy Family Church in Gaza City and the Gaza Strip, and expressed his love and prayers for all the faithful there.

According to Father Romanelli, who got two phone conversations from Pope Francis on October 7 and 9, 2023, the Pope shared "his closeness and prayers for all the parishioners and villagers" and offered his blessing on them.

After hearing Pope Francis' appeal for peace after Sunday's Angelus message, the priest, who is currently trapped in Bethlehem following a trip to Rome, said he was grateful for that message.

On October 9, the Israeli military announced a total blockade of the Gaza Strip following an attack on Israel by Hamas, the Islamist group controlling the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Romanelli, an Argentine priest at the Incarnate Word Institute, said the situation "continues to be very bad" and he "has never seen anything like this time.”

In the midst of Israeli airstrikes, the Gaza parish is sheltering more than 80 Christians and Muslims.

Since the Israeli raids on October 7, 2023, there have been over 770 deaths reported throughout Gaza, and more than 4,000 injuries.

Shortly after the invasion on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel was “at war.”

Following the invasion, the country declared war on Hamas, with military authorities vowing a big offensive against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.


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