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Report: Gaza’s only Catholic priest says Palestinians need peace

January 6, 2007

From Catholic News Service:

Of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, through which the Holy Family probably traveled on its escape to Egypt, nearly all are Muslim. There are about 3,000 Christians, including 200 Catholics served by one priest.

His name is Msgr. Manuel Musallam, though he jokes that he’s also called the “pope of Gaza.”

“To come to Gaza is to be a hero,” he says of his assignment.

(…)

In addition to being pastor, he oversees two Catholic schools run by the Rosary Sisters. One, at his parish, has 650 students in first through 12th grade. One hundred of the students are Christian; the rest are Muslim. At the second school, offering kindergarten to 10th grade, there are 550 students – 35 of them Catholic, the rest Muslim. He also works with the Missionaries of Charity, who operate a health clinic, a house for disabled children and a home for older women.

He said it is difficult to “convince people to remain faithful, to accept the word of God, to accept the gospel, to accept the principles of the gospel – which are so hard” in a world of daily conflict.

He said one parish employee had just gotten home when a bullet ripped into her house, hit her in the chest and killed her. One of his teachers works despite having a bullet lodged in his thigh. One of his 10th-grade students took two bullets, in the chest and an arm, as he was eating with his family in their home.

“I am the hope of my people. I cannot give up. … I keep my faith, my hope, my charity toward everyone everywhere. I preach peace, I preach hope, I preach charity and I preach faith,” he said.

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