Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has spent three days with the Christian community in Gaza from 13-15 December. During his visit the Archbishop has met with parishioners, blessed a new chapel, attended a Nativity play with young people and children, administered First Communion and Confirmation and celebrated Mass in the Catholic parish dedicated to the Holy Family.
The visit to the Gaza Strip during the week before Christmas has become a tradition for the Apostolic Administrators of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
There are about a thousand Christians in the Gaza Strip, mostly Greek Orthodox, out of a population of two million. The small Catholic community is made up of less than two hundred parishioners.
Gaza has been described as a huge open prison by humanitarian agencies. For more than a decade almost two million people have been trapped in the territory 25 miles long and never more than 7.5 miles wide, where 50 per cent are unemployed, the health system is collapsing, there are shortages of food, frequent power cuts and only four per cent of the water supply is considered fit to drink.
This year, for "security reasons" the Israeli authorities have not granted any temporary visas to the baptized Palestinians of the Gaza Strip to allow them to celebrate Christmas near the nearby Holy Places of Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth, where Jesus Christ was born, died and rose again. "But the Child Jesus will also come to us", a parishioner from Gaza told Fides.
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