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Pope Francis thanks Gaza's sole Catholic priest; tells him to 'have courage'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
9/2/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Father Jorge Hernandez had special meeting with Pope

Father Jorge Hernandez, the Gaza Strip's sole Catholic parish met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, thanking him for his support of those suffering in the war-torn territory. Speaking to Vatican Radio, the 36-year-old priest says that the Pope continued to offer his prayers and encouragement.

Father Hernandez and three Missionaries of Charity were the only religious left at Holy Family Church during a 50-day battle between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.

Father Hernandez and three Missionaries of Charity were the only religious left at Holy Family Church during a 50-day battle between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
9/2/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Gaza, Father Hernandez, Pope Francis, Catholic minority


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hernandez said that the Pope told him that "the Gospel demands the sacrifices that Jesus Christ asks of every one of us, everywhere. It's up to you to give witness to Jesus Christ there, in the land that saw him suffer, that saw him die, that also saw him, however, come back from the dead. So, be strong, have courage, keep going!"
 
Like the Pope, Father Hernandez is likewise from Argentina. He had a 45-minute private meeting with the Pope Francis on August 29, just days after the start of a truce between Israel and Hamas.

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Father Hernandez and three Missionaries of Charity were the only religious left at Holy Family Church during a 50-day battle between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.

The priest and three religious women elected to stay behind in the midst of the heaviest rocket fire in order to care for 29 severely disabled children and nine elderly women. The four of them later opened up the parish school to shelter some 1,200 Palestinians who fled their homes during the airstrikes.

Father Hernandez told Vatican Radio how important Francis's support was during the ordeal.

"He even sent us an email that we immediately translated into Arabic, and that's how it was given to the whole Christian community, which was enormously grateful," the priest said.

"A thought like that at such a time is a huge consolation, a relief - and now the fact that he called us for a personal meeting with him, to let us understand, to feel his closeness, his words, his encouragement to be the salt of the earth in Gaza."

Hernandez says that the Pope is aware of "the life lived in pain" by the small Catholic minority in Gaza. There are only 136 Catholics out of two million, mostly Muslim, inhabitants. Another 1,300 people are part of the Christian Orthodox traditions.

The fact that the Pope "won over people's hearts, put in a good word for both states was an enormous grace for us."

Hernandez thanked everyone for their prayers and for all the notes, calls and concrete assistance, especially from Caritas Internationalis.

He said he hoped the ceasefire would hold and last "forever . All you have to do is see the suffering on both sides," he said, because all sides "will have to pay the consequences" of conflict in different ways.

"Nobody wins with war," he said. "Nobody comes out ahead. Everybody loses.

"Let's hope that God grants us the strength needed to start all over again."

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