Rosary beads at a prayer vigil. (Photo: Vatican News

Oct 21 2023

Amid the Israel-Hamas war, more than half a million children across the world prayed the rosary for peace.

On Oct. 18, well over 500,000 kids participated in an annual global rosary campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.

Since 1947, ACN has worked under the guidance of the pope to provide pastoral and humanitarian assistance to persecuted Catholics. At present, ACN manages 5,000 projects in upwards of 145 countries each year. The organization also stands ready to offer aid in times of natural disaster.

ACN launched the global rosary campaign in 2005, and currently partners with the Shrine of Fatima, Portugalthe Pope‘s Worldwide Prayer Network and the World Apostolate of Fatima. Each year, families, parishes, teachers and catechists are invited to gather children in praying the rosary, with ACN supplying resource materials to help promote the campaign and instruct participants.

This year, ACN dedicated the annual rosary to “healing and protection of the suffering in the Holy Land,” according to a press release issued by the organization.

The release noted that the war is currently preventing ACN from aiding the small Christian community in the Holy Land, “but we stand ready to do so,” said Edward Clancy, director of outreach for ACN‘s U.S. office.

Clancy reiterated Pope Francis‘ call for humanitarian corridors to enable vital aid deliveries to Christians in Gaza and in the West Bank.

The war itself was sparked by Hamas‘ Oct. 7 ambush — coinciding with a Sabbath and Jewish holiday — on some 22 locations in Israel.Hamas members gunned down civilians and took at least 199 hostages, according to Israel, including infants, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Israel declared war on Hamas Oct. 8, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes as Hamas has returned fire.To date, some 1,400 in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, and at least 3,500 in Gaza have been killed, according to Palestinian officials.The ensuing humanitarian crisis has left the Middle East “on the verge of the abyss,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

ACN said that it has maintained contact with Sister Nabila Saleh, a Sister of the Holy Rosary assigned to Gaza‘s only Catholic parish, the Church of the Holy Family.

Sister Nabila said she and her community are determined to remain in place and not flee toward southern Gaza ahead of an anticipated ground invasion by Israel.

“We will not go,” said Sister Nabila. “People have nothing, not the basic things; where should we go? To die on the street? We have old people, and people with multiple disabilities and elderly people. We need medicine. Many hospitals are destroyed. Where should we go?”

Holy Family pastor Father Gabriel Romanelli, an Argentine and Incarnate Word priest, echoed that determination in communications to ACN.

“What will (Gaza residents) find in the south of the Gaza strip? They will find hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Gaza City,” he said. “And there is nothing in the south and the health and humanitarian situation is disastrous, with lack of water and food.”

He said Gaza’s Catholics believe that “they are safer with Jesus. And that is why together they pray … and hope that the Lord will protect them and that the people who are working and praying for peace will change the decision to strike the church which has always been an oasis of peace.”

Clancy urged ACN donors and friends “to pray for peace and for an opportunity to treat the wounded and to begin to restore the lives of all the innocents caught in the violence.” – UCA News