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Pope meets with Gaza parish priest

By Sarah Mac Donald - 31 August, 2014

Fr Jorge Hernández Zanni

Fr Jorge Hernández Zanni who works as a parish priest in Gaza.

Courtesy: Independent Catholic News www.indcatholicnews.com

Argentinian priest, Fr Jorge Hernández Zanni, Parish Priest at the Holy Family Catholic church in Gaza, had a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

After his meeting, Fr Jorge, who is a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, spoke to Vatican Radio.

Describing the meeting with Pope Francis as an unexpected grace, he said that during the recent war in Gaza, the Pontiff had emailed a message to the parish which he said, was very encouraging.

“First of all, Francis encouraged us to always go forward, to bear our witness, to be ‘salt of the earth’,” Fr Jorge said.

“I referred to the supernatural vision of the presence of Christians in that place. Let us not forget that out of almost two million people in Gaza, there are 1,350 Christians, of whom 136 are Catholics and the rest Orthodox. An important minority. And the fact that the Pontiff cares about us is a meaningful gesture.”

Having met the Pope, Fr Jorge said, “The pastor is present among his faithful, he offers encouragement and wise counsel. It is a tremendous grace for us.”

The priest said everyone was thanking God that a durable ceasefire agreement has been reached, at least providing the chance for the negotiators to return to Egypt.

“This is also a great grace for us, because the people cannot take it any more. More than the damage and the fear, the situation has become unbearable for both sides in the conflict.”

Holy Family is the only parish in Gaza. Fr Jorge serves there with another priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, Fr Mario, who is from Brazil, together with religious Sisters from three congregations: the Sisters of Mother Teresa, the Dominicans of the Rosary and the Institute of the Virgin of Matará, from Argentina.

All three congregations help in the parish, some assisting disabled children, others in the three Christian schools, which are the best in Gaza.

During the conflict the community hosted more than 2,200 people who had fled their homes.

“Ours was a witness of charity” Fr Jorge said. “We welcomed, sheltered and supported many refugees in their sorrow, also providing material aid, thanks to Caritas Internationalis, which was always close to us.”

“I must say that we always had the unconditional support of the Patriarch Jerusalem for Latins. Patriarch Twal in person took care of the humanitarian aid for us and he himself telephoned our community many times.”

” One who has lived through war knows the extraordinary value of these gestures. This is the presence of the Church: a steadfast charitable witness.”

He added that three parishioners were killed during the attacks.

Fr Jorge concluded by thanking everyone who sent messages of support and offered prayers during the weeks of conflict.

“This was very important to us. I again ask that everyone continue to pray for us. It is essential, we need it.”

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