Church leader ‘heartbroken’ after Christian women killed at Gaza church

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The Holy Family Church in Gaza is the only Catholic church in Gaza.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has expressed his “horror” after reports that two Christian women were killed inside a Gaza church compound on Friday. 

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported that an elderly woman and her daughter were shot dead by an Israeli sniper inside the compound of the Parish of the Holy Family, the only Catholic church in Gaza.

The church has been sheltering around a thousand stranded Christians since the outbreak of war with Israel in the aftermath of the Oct 7 terror attack by Hamas. They are being cared for by the parish’s nuns.

Cardinal Nichols said he was “heartbroken” at news of the deaths, which he said “gives a picture of seemingly deliberate and callous killing by IDF soldiers of innocent civilians”.

“I have twice been warmly welcomed to this parish by its people. They are a remarkable community of faith and genuine service to their neighbours,” he said.

“Together with the dedicated religious sisters, they have continued to provide shelter and sustenance to many people during these weeks of warfare. They are a people who yearn for peace.”

He added, “This killing has to stop. It can never be justified. I ask all people of faith and goodwill to continue to pray for an end to this conflict by all sides.”

The update report from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said that seven more people had been wounded in the incident as they “tried to protect others inside the church compound”. 

“No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents,” he said. 

The Latin Patriarchate said that the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa inside the compound, which is home to 54 disabled people, was also targeted by rockets fired from an IDF tank, destroying the building’s only power source and fuel supplies. The blasts “rendered the home uninhabitable”, leaving the disabled residents displaced and “without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive”.

“Together in prayer with the whole Christian community, we express our closeness and condolences to the families affected by this senseless tragedy,” the Latin Patriarchate said.

“At the same time, we cannot but express that we are at a loss to comprehend how such an attack could be carried out, even more so when the whole Church prepares for Christmas.

“The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem follows this developing situation with great concern and shall provide additional information as needed.”

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