Today's Catholic

In deadly conflict, Boko Haram captures key Nigerian town

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on July 23, 2014

Islamic militant group Boko Haram has taken control of the northeastern Nigeria town of Damboa in a July 18 attack that killed at least 40 people.
The vigilante force defending the town fled when it ran out of ammunition. Damboa is one of the biggest towns in Borno state and a significant trading center, the BBC reports.
Fighting around the town has damaged electricity stations, leaving the regional capital of Maiduguri without power for three weeks. The capital is about 53 miles from the captured area.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has led an insurgency with the goal of creating an Islamic state. It drew international attention earlier this year when it kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, many of whom are still prisoner.
Nigeria’s government has faced heavy criticism for failing to rescue the girls and to end the insurgency.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan asked the country’s National Assembly to borrow $1 billion to fund a military response, but the assembly broke for a two-month recess before approving the request.
Some Nigerian soldiers say they are outgunned by Boko Haram. Critics say that much of Nigeria’s $6 billion military budget is lost to corruption. The military has come under criticism for abuses against civilians.
In June Bishop Matthew Kukah of northern Nigeria’s Diocese of Sokoto told CNA that Boko Haram has gained power due to the weakness of the local government and due to the loss of credibility of the local Muslim lawyer class.
He blamed “years of corruption” and “mismanagement of state resources” for consigning citizens to “misery and squalor.”
He said Boko Haram are “purely and simply criminals,” though they have some grievances similar to those of ordinary Nigerians opposed to corruption and poverty.
The Boko Haram uprising has been bloody. At least 2,053 civilians have been killed in an estimated 95 attacks in the first six months of 2014. Previously, about 3,600 civilians had died in the conflict.
The U.S. government only recognized Boko Haram as a terrorist group in 2013, after years of lobbying from Christian groups and other human rights advocates.

Pope Francis to have lunch with 20 young Asian leaders

Posted in Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on July 23, 2014

During his upcoming apostolic voyage to South Korea Pope Francis is slated to have lunch with 20 Asian youth during the 2014 Asia Youth Day, including Korean pop-star BoA.
According to the Korean Times, representatives from 17 Asian countries will attend a luncheon with the Roman Pontiff Aug. 15, following his visit to Daejeon’s World Cup Stadium, where he will celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption, after which he will have an official lunch with the diocese’s seminarians.
Among the 17 different countries the youth will come from are India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan, Nepal, China, Japan and Mongolia.
K-pop sensation BoA will also join the banquet as an honorary ambassador for the sixth Asian Youth Day, being held in Daejeon. Taking place Aug. 13 – 17, the event is expected to draw some 2,000 youngsters from 22 Asian countries.
The Roman pontiff will travel to the Somoe Shrine after the luncheon, and will meet with all participants of the AYD later that evening.
Announced by the Vatican in March, the pope’s Aug. 13 – 18 trip follows an invitation from both the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea.
Following the motto “Rise Korea, clothe yourself in light, the Lord’s glory shines upon you,” the Pope’s visit officially begins with his departure from Rome the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 13. He will travel to Daejeon Friday.
Nazarius Yoo Heung-sik, the diocese’s bishop, told reporters at a July 14 press conference that “The Daejeon diocesan territory is home to many Korean martyrs and the AYD will inspire young devout Catholics in Asia to look up to the sacrifices of the martyrs,” the Korean Times reports.
“The pope’s visit at the event will be a huge encouragement for them.”
Pope Francis will close the AYD event by celebrating Mass for the participants Aug. 17, and will conclude his trip the next day with a Mass in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral, where he is expected to give a message for peace to the Korean peninsula.
The Times also reports that the committee organizing the pope’s visit have invited former wartime “comfort women,” prostitutes, during the Japanese occupation of 1910-1945 to participate in the Mass, and have also sent invitations to Catholic organizations in North Korea and are waiting for their reply.
Pope Francis’ trip will mark the first time in 25 years that a pope has visited the Korean peninsula, the last occurring when St. John Paul II came in October 1989, following a 1984 trip where he canonized 103 Korean martyrs.

Pope Francis calls Syro-Catholic patriarch, assures of his prayers

Posted in Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on July 22, 2014

According an Italian Catholic news organization, Pope Francis made a phone call to Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan over the weekend to reassure him of his continued prayers for Iraqi Christians.
Following the July 19 burning down of the Episcopal palace of Syrian-Catholics in Mosul, Italian Catholic news organization SIR reports that Pope Francis made a phone call to the Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan of Antioch the afternoon of July 20 to express his condolences and closeness in a time of persecution.
The agency reports that during their 9 minute conversation, the Pope reassured the patriarch “that he follows closely and with concern the drama of forced and threatened Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul.”
SIR referred to other reports coming from the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate, which stated that Patriarch Younan “thanked the Pope” and asked him to “intensify” his efforts to engage world leaders by bringing them face-to-face with the fact that the province of Nineveh is undergoing “a mass cleaning based on religion.”
At the end of the call Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to the patriarch and to “all the Christian people of the East,” assuring that he “will always be present in his prayers for peace and security.”
Members of ISIS, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, June 10.
The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.
ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates River in northwest Syria.
Thursday the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, or leave their homes with only their clothes, nothing more.
Following Thursday’s declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with an “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result, the few remaining Christians have left, marking the first time in history the city has been without Christians.
Father Nawar, a priest from Nineveh currently living in Rome, spoke with CNA July 22, stating that the country is overrun by “war, violence, conflict. It is not the same Iraq as before.”
Hailing from the Iraqi city of Karakosh on the plains of Nineveh, a city currently under Kurdish protection and where many citizens fleeing Mosul are taking refuge, Fr. Nawar lamented the exodus of Christians from the city, stating that “for four days there have been no Christians in Mosul.”
“All of them left because there is fear,” he said. “All of the Christians are leaving. Families left for Nineveh by foot. There is no car, no money. Many people right now are afraid, afraid of this future.”
“Today life, Christian life in Iraq, is very hard,” the Iraqi priest continued, explaining how when many times when families have attempted to leave the city they were stopped and asked “where are you going?”
When they responded “I’m leaving because I’m afraid in this city,” militant forces tell them to stop and get out of the car. Then “whoever has money, gold, documents…they take all of it,” Faher Nawar observed, explaining that for those who do not leave, “I think they die.”
Noting how the future of the country is “not certain” he explained that it’s hard to say what the future will bring “because today thousands of Christian families are leaving for Nineveh. Today there is no Christianity in Mosul.”
“There has been war every day, every day the war has developed, there is no peace, there is no dialogue, there is no communication. All of this is a fact right now in Iraq.”
Despite the current discord and seemingly bleak outlook of the country, Father Nawar, who is in daily contact with his bishop and other priests in Iraq, explained that there is still hope “because we believe in Christianity” and “we believe in hope.”
“We are with every person. Sick, in pain. But even today there is fear,” the priest observed. “Every day there is the need to confront this fear. This is the question.”
“Even today many Christians from other cities, other regions also have fear…in Karakosh, also in Baghdad, there is fear. They don’t know, they don’t know what to do in the future.

Schedule for Pope Francis’ Caserta visit released

Posted in Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on July 22, 2014

The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ schedule for the first of his two day-trips to the Italian city of Caserta, where he will later meet an evangelical pastor and friend from his time in Buenos Aires.
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Pope Francis will travel by helicopter to the province of Caserta in the Campania region of Italy the afternoon of July 26, and will arrive to the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta at 3:45 p.m.
After his arrival, the Roman Pontiff will hold a meeting with the diocese’s priests and seminarians at 4 p.m., and will celebrate Mass at the airport at 6 p.m.
Following the Mass, he will return to the Vatican by helicopter that evening so that he can recite the Angelus prayer with faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, as he does every week.
On Monday, July 28, the bishop of Rome will return to Caserta to pay a private visit to his longtime friend, Evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, and his community.
Announced by the Vatican July 10, the pope’s Caserta visit was originally scheduled as a one-day event for the purpose of his private encounter with pastor Giovanni Traettino, however upon receiving an invitation from the diocese’s bishop, Giovanni D’Avise, the pontiff decided to add a day in order to meet with locals.
In the initial July 10 announcement of the visit, the Vatican revealed that the idea of making the trip to pastor Traettino’s church of the Reconciliation in Caserta originally sprang from an encounter Pope Francis had with a group of evangelical pastors in the Vatican last month, during which the pontiff expressed his desire to visit the pastor’s church.
The visit with pastor Traettino “will be a strictly private, simple and quick” encounter, the statement read.
Caserta lies in southern Italy and is a prominent agricultural, commercial and industrial commune. It is roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive from Vatican City.

See below for the pope’s full schedule:

Saturday, July 26

3 p.m. Depart by helicopter from the Vatican heliport

3:45 p.m. Land in the heliport of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta

4 p.m. Encounter with priests of the diocese in the Officers Club of the Air Force in the Royal Palace of Caserta

6 p.m. Holy Mass in the square in front of the Palace of Caserta

7:30 p.m. Depart by helicopter from the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force, in the Royal Palace of Caserta

8:15 p.m. Arrive to the Vatican heliport

St. John Paul II, Gianna Molla to be World Meeting of Families patrons

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on July 22, 2014

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia announced Sunday that St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Beretta Molla will be patron saints of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, being held in his cathedral city.
“Saint John Paul II and Saint Gianna have been chosen as the two worthy Patron Saints to guide all in preparation and participation of this international event as they fully embody the history, mission and theme of the World Meeting of Families 2015,” Archbishop Chaput stated July 20 during Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
“Saints John Paul II and Gianna had a deep and abiding commitment to strengthening the family and sustaining it with love. This historic event will give thousands from around the globe the opportunity to share in the same commitment of our Patron Saints.”
During the Mass, Archbishop Chaput also unveiled and blessed a relic of St. John Paul II’s blood for the veneration of the faithful.
The 2015 World Meeting of Families will be held Sept. 22-27 under the theme, “Love is our mission: the family fully alive.” Tens of thousands from across the world are anticipated to attend the event.
The World Meeting of Families began in 1994 by the Pontifical Council for the Family under St. John Paul II. Its mission is to strengthen families across the globe, encouraging them to live their faith with joy and sincerity.
St. John Paul II has a special link to Philadelphia, as he was the first Pope to visit the city, in 1979. The late pope was declared “pope of the family” during his canonization.
St. Gianna, mother of four, died while giving birth to her last child. Beatified in 1994, St. John Paul II canonized her in 2004. She is strongly associated with the mission of the family, and has been declared the patron of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Archbishop Kurtz joins Pope Francis in calling for prayers, action for peace in Middle East, Ukraine, Africa, Central America

Posted in USCCB by satodayscatholic on July 22, 2014

Israel, Hamas conflict terrorizes Israeli civilians, costs the lives of more than 500 Gazans, most of them civilians.
Conflicts in Syria, Iraq have caused millions to flee homes, tens of thousands to die
Conflict in Ukraine has displaced thousands, hundreds of lives cut short when passenger jet shot down.
Clashes in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo have displaced millions
Violence in Central America driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in U.S.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has asked the U.S. bishops to join with him in prayer and action for peace in world trouble spots, including the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa and Central America.
He also urged the bishops to express solidarity with Pope Francis in a July 22 letter, which follows.

Dear Brother Bishops,

May God bless you!

On Sunday, July 20, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, prayed for peace in all situations of tension and conflict in the world. He mentioned in particular the Middle East and Ukraine, singling out the terrible crisis of Christians in Iraq with these words: “Today our brothers are persecuted. They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!”

Our own Conference of Bishops has called attention to numerous situations of violence that cry out for peace. There is the terrible conflict between Israel and Hamas that terrorizes Israeli civilians and has cost the lives of more than 500 Gazans, most of whom are civilians. There are the alarming conflicts in Syria and Iraq that have caused millions to flee their homes and tens of thousands to lose their lives. We are mindful of the violent conflict in Ukraine, of the thousands who are displaced, and the hundreds of innocent civilians whose lives were cut short when a passenger jet was shot down. In Africa there are the often forgotten clashes in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have displaced millions. Closer to home, there is the violence in Central America that is driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in our country.

All of these tragic situations, and sadly many more, demand our prayer and action for peace. On Sunday, Pope Francis pleaded: “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!” Let us join our prayers and calls to action with his.

In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation. As Jesus admonishes us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). This can be done in personal prayers and in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass.

We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us. My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
Fraternally yours in our Lord,

Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

USCCB chairmen respond to ‘unprecedented and extreme’ executive order

Posted in USCCB by satodayscatholic on July 21, 2014

The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.
Two USCCB Chairmen — Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth — together issued the following statement.

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.
In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.
More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.
The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.
In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation.
Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

Iraqi bishop urges prayer as Christians expelled from Mosul

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on July 21, 2014

On the eve of an ultimatum issued by Islamists to Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Chaldean bishop of Erbil, in nearby Kurdistan, urged prayers for the nation’s remaining followers of Christ.
“We have hope that things will get better,” Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil said in an interview with CNA on July 16.
“But … from the circumstances, which we are following, it looks like it’s going to take some time.”
A militant Sunni organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been steadily attacking cities and communities in north and northwestern Iraq since June. The attacks have begun dividing Iraq along religious and ethnic lines.
On Friday, July 18, ISIS issued an ultimatum to the Christians of the city of Mosul, which it captured more than a month ago: convert to Islam, pay the jizya, or be killed.
The cross a top the city’s Syriac Orthodox cathedral was removed.
“They control the city and I think they made it very clear that there is no place for non-Muslims in the city,” Archbishop Warda said.
Thousands of Christians have fled Mosul, seeking refuge in Christian villages in the surrounding Nineveh Plains and in Kurdistan.
The charity Aid to the Church in Need sent a grant of more than $135,000 to provide food and shelter for the displaced in the region. Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul told the charity in a recent interview that schools, church halls and abandoned houses have opened up to receive displaced persons from Mosul.
Recent U.N. estimates place the number of internally displaced Iraqis at 1.2 million, nearly half of whom have been driven from homes in the western province of Anbar. Many of those internally displaced are seeking refuge in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, which is known for its peace and stability.
Archbishop Warda said he has noticed an influx of refugees in Erbil over the past month. He said most refugees are renting out rooms or apartments from locals.
“(It’s) crowded, yes, and expensive, which is also another issue” the archbishop explained. “But, that’s the situation.”
He lamented that many Iraqis have been living in a state of crisis for many years.
“We hope that things will get better (and) will improve for the lives of those people,” he said.
“But from what we are observing, it’s not promising.

Pope laments exodus of last Christians from Mosul

Posted in Pope Francis by satodayscatholic on July 21, 2014

In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave.
“They are persecuted; our brothers are persecuted, they are driven out, they have to leave their houses without having the possibility of taking anything with them,” Pope Francis voiced in his July 20 Angelus address.
“I want to express my closeness and my constant prayer to these families and these people,” he continued. “Dear brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of the one who has conquered evil!”
Members of ISIS, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, June 10.
The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.
ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates river in northwest Syria.
Thursday the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate declared to the remaining Christian community of Mosul that they either needed openly convert to Islam, pay an unspecified jizya tax in exchange for their safety while observing certain conditions, or leave their homes with only their clothes, nothing more.
Following Thursday’s declaration, the houses of Mosul Christians were marked with an “N,” signifying “Nazarenes.” As a result, the few remaining Christians have left, marking the first time in history the city has been without Christians.
Pope Francis encouraged those gathered in St. Peter’s Square as well as those watching on television to pray for “the situations of tension and conflict that persist in different parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine.”
“The God of peace will awaken in all the authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence will not win over violence. Violence is won over by peace!” he said, and led the pilgrims in a moment of silent prayer.
During his address before the traditional Marian prayer, the Roman Pontiff recounted the parable of the day’s Gospel, in which the owner of a field plants wheat, but one of his enemies comes during the night and plants weeds in the field as well.
Observing how the Hebrew root for the word “enemy” used in scripture is the same as that of “Satan,” the Pope described how the name gives the connotation of division, and explained that the devil “always seeks to divide individuals, families, nations and peoples.”
Observing how there is a twofold meaning to the parable, the pontiff noted that first of all it reveals to us that “the evil in the world does not come from God, but from his enemy, the devil.”
Another lesson we learn is when we look at “the contradiction between the impatience of the servants and the patience of the owner of the field, who represents God,” he continued, referring to how the servants wanted to burn all the weeds, but the field owner instead waited and had the wheat and weeds grow together so that he could save the good seeds later.
“Sometimes we are very quick to judge, classify, put the good over here, the bad over there,” the bishop of Rome noted, stating that instead “God knows how to wait. God is patient” and “waits with heart in hand in order to welcome, to forgive. He always forgives if we go to him.”
Going on, the pope drew attention to the attitude of the field owner, saying that it is that of the hope founded on the certainty that evil will have neither the first nor the last word.”
“It is thanks to this patient hope of God that the same weed, which is the evil heart with many sins, in the end can become wheat,” he said, “But be attentive: evangelical patience is not an indifference to evil; we cannot confuse good and evil!”
“In front of the weeds present in the world the disciple of the Lord is called to imitate the patience of God, and nourish the hope of the ultimate good, which is God.”
Concluding his address, according to a Catholic News Agency report, Pope Francis explained that “we will be judged with the same measure we have judged others.”
“The mercy that we have shown to others will also be shown to us,” he stated, and prayed that Mary, “our Mother,” help us “to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all of our brothers.”

Amid violence, priest opts to stay with parishioners in Gaza

Posted in Uncategorized by satodayscatholic on July 21, 2014

Argentinean priest Father Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Parish in the Gaza strip, has decided to stay with his parishioners despite three missile strikes near his parish earlier this week.
“Crime is on the rise. Little children are getting sick from fear, stress, shockwaves and the continuous noise,” he said in an online statement. “Parents are doing everything possible to distract them so that this crude violence does not overwhelm them.”
Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,300 rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with nearly 2,000 airstrikes. The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers invaded the Gaza Strip July 17 in an effort to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenals and their tunnels into Israel. Earlier that day, 13 Hamas militants attempted to enter Israel through one tunnel, only to be stopped by an Israeli military strike.
Several days ago, the Missionaries of Charity brought 28 handicapped children and nine women under their care to the parish because they considered it to be a safer place. They all plan to remain in Gaza with Father Hernandez.
The five-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip was also a window for hundreds of people to evacuate.
Among those who were told to leave their homes were three Argentinean nuns from the Institute of the Word Incarnate who also work at the parish. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem began permanent Eucharist adoration at the parish and a special Mass “to pray for forgiveness for all, for justice and peace,” was celebrated there on July 16.
Father Hernandez, who is a member of the Institute of the Word Incarnate, provided a testimony of his experience in the Gaza Strip which the institute has published on its website.
“Today, Sunday, we were able to celebrate Holy Mass, thank God, with seven nuns and five brave men. Apart from that, it’s all edifying given the circumstances.”
“I think that so far yesterday was the worst day of this war. The rockets are fired from here nonstop. Various cities near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are being affected,” the priest said.
“Three days ago the Israeli army ordered the evacuation of residents on the border with Israel. They are distributing fliers and airing spots on radio and TV. And people are beginning to leave. To where? Anywhere, it doesn’t matter.”
“In practice, before bombing a house, the Israeli army calls on the phone to warn the family to leave. After giving them a certain amount of time, that home is destroyed,” Father Hernandez recounts in a Catholic News Agency report.
“Nevertheless, Hamas demands that these residents return to their homes. ‘There is no need to make room for the Zionist enemy,’ they say publicly. We think it is instead to use civilians as human shields.”
“What’s certain is that crime is rising,” the priest noted. “That’s what is happening here.”
Despite this, “we are well,” he added. “There are some people who have thanked us for our presence here. They tell us every once in a while: ‘You are not going to abandon us, are you?’”

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