Debris in a deserted street following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City  (ANSA)

By Devin Watkins

Oct 28 2023

Suhail Abodawood, an 18-year-old Catholic parishioner in Gaza, says the Church is his true home after his family’s house was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike.

On Monday, Suhail Abodawood wrote a message-prayer for peace in the Holy Land as he sheltered in his parish, the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza.

Two days later, on Wednesday, 25 Oct, an Israeli airstrike reportedly destroyed his home.

He got the message just before attending Mass in the parish where he has taken refuge along with 700 other people.

Spiritual home

In a note shared with Vatican News and the Osservatore Romano, Mr Abodawood reflected on his personal reactions to the destruction of his family home.

“At first, I felt really sad and disappointed. But then, I realised that our lives are more important than any other thing,” he wrote. “In the Holy Mass, that started, I prayed so intensely to our Lord Jesus and I asked Him to give me more strength and faith, to face my distress.”

After losing his physical residence, Mr Abodawood came to realize that he would never lose his true home and his relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Despite everything, I consider and believe that the Holy Church is my first and last home,” he said. “It becomes my true home, after the other one has been destroyed.”

Praying for peace and justice

Mr Abodawood and many of the Palestinians sheltering in the Holy Family church are spending much of their time in prayer, often attending Mass twice daily and praying the Rosary frequently to ask for the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Faith is stronger than war,” he recalled, adding that he and others are “asking God to give us peace and justice in our Holy Land.”

His parish priest, Fr Gabriele Romanelli, has said his parishioners will join wholeheartedly in the Day of Prayer, Fasting, and Penance for Peace in our World, which Pope Francis has called for on Friday, 27 October.

Concluding his message, Mr Abodawood expressed his belief that “hope and determination are stronger than any war”.

“We will keep praying, fasting and thanking God for everything He has done for us, as long as we are still alive,” he said. – Vatican News