Gaza’s only Catholic parish has finally seen the return of its pastor, as Father Gabriel Romanelli, the parish priest of the Latin-rite Church of the Holy Family, took advantage of Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa’s visit to the area last week.

The priest had left the Gaza Strip on Oct. 6, but had originally been scheduled to return the next day.

However, on the early morning of Oct. 7, Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, attacked Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking over 200 more as hostages.

Since that time, Israel has launched a war against Gaza, where the health minister says over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed.

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In its pastor’s absence, the Church of the Holy Family has housed around 600 displaced Christians.

Pizzaballa held a pastoral visit to Gaza May 16 to 19, which Romanelli took advantage of to return to his parish.

“Cardinal Pizzaballa managed to visit the parish he knows very well, as well as the families. He entered all the homes of many Catholic and Orthodox families,” the priest told Vatican News.

“I am in the parish and will stay here,” he said.

“The situation is paradoxical; there is serenity among many of our parishioners,” he told Vatican News.

“Despite the truly enormous suffering, they remain serene and place themselves in the hands of the Lord. Of course, they are very concerned about what will happen. Some are sick, some are injured, many have left, and some are thinking of leaving, but many, many, many are thinking of staying,” the priest said.

Vatican News said there are still 500 Christians taking refuge in the parish compound, as well as the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Their help extends also to the neighboring Muslims.

Meanwhile, the English Catholic international aid agency CAFOD has reported almost all members of parliament were contacted by its supporters “to support efforts to restoring peace in Gaza by not granting any more licences to export arms and other military equipment to Israel.”

Aisha Dodwell, Head of Campaigns at CAFOD, said the fact that over 95 percent of members of parliament were reached by its supporters “is a testament to the distress that Catholic constituents feel about this issue.”

“Stopping arms sales is crucial to preventing a total catastrophe in Rafah and ending the suffering in Gaza. This must happen alongside continued calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the release of all hostages and the unimpeded provision of aid to all those who need it,” she said.

“Our supporters are sending a clear message to the government that the UK must reconsider its position on arms sales Israel especially in light of serious allegations of human rights abuses. As Pope Francis has said, ‘To say ‘no’ to war means saying ‘no’ to weaponry’,” Dodwell said.

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