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Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrios in Gaza Bombed

Saint Porphyrios orthodox church Gaza bombed
The ruins of the Saint Porphyrios orthodox church in Gaza. Credit: Video screenshots/Twitter/@byPlestia

A 1,600-year-old Greek Orthodox church in the Gaza Strip which was sheltering hundreds of displaced Palestinians was hit overnight by an Israeli air strike, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said, and Palestinian health officials said 16 people were killed.

Parts of the Saint Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church compound in the Gaza Strip collapsed as a result.

The Israeli military told AFP that its fighter jets had hit a command and control center involved in launching rockets and mortars toward Israel.

“As a result of the IDF [Israeli army] strike, a wall of a church in the area was damaged,” it said, adding “we are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review.”

The church served as a refuge for many people during the region’s ongoing conflict, according to the media. About 50 people, mostly women and children, were present during the blast, Greek public media, ERT, reported.

Witnesses told AFP the strike appears to have been aimed at a target close to the place of worship where many Gaza residents have taken refuge.

The Israeli airstrikes were condemned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who stated:

“The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expresses its strongest condemnation of the Israeli airstrike that have struck its church compound in the city of Gaza. The Patriarchate emphasizes that targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored.”

Ancient Church of Saint Porphyrios in Gaza Strip

The Church of Saint Porphyrios is an ancient and sizable place of worship in the region. It is believed to be the third oldest church in the world. The original temple at this location dates back to 425 CE. However, the current church was built by the Crusaders around the 1150s. Historical records from the 15th century also mention its dedication to the Virgin Mary. It has been preserved throughout time and was restored in 1856.

While some architectural elements such as cornices and bases can be traced back to the Crusader period, many other parts of the church were added at later dates. The church’s walls, constructed from time-worn limestone, offer a refuge with their ability to provide warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer.


The Church of Saint Porphyrius- Gaza, is located in the Zaytun Quarter of the Old City, it is named after the 5th century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius. #gaza #church #orthodox

♬ Agios O Theos / Dinamis – Live Lebanon 2017 – Kabarnos

Saint Porphyrios’ Story

Saint Porphyrios is especially significant for Christians, as he valiantly opposed polytheistic religions that once held sway in Gaza and the broader Levant.

Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza
The ancient 1,600-year-old Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrios in the Gaza Strip was reportedly hit by an airstrike. Credit: Dan Palraz / CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Legend has it that Saint Porphyrios had a severe leg ailment. Despite his affliction, he embarked on a pilgrimage from his meditative spot in the Jordanian wilderness to Jerusalem, seeking divine healing. During his time in this ancient city, it is believed he entered into a transcendent state, encountering Jesus Christ, and emerged from it miraculously cured.

After the death of Gaza’s bishop in the year 395, Porphyrios, a priest, was called upon to assume a critical role in safeguarding the local Christian community from harassment by pagan adherents. At that time, Gaza had just three Christian churches amidst a multitude of pagan temples and idols. However, Saint Porphyrios’ presence brought about a significant change. It is believed he oversaw the baptism of 237 men, 35 women, and 14 children.

His strong ties with the Roman Emperor and Empress bore fruit in 401 when an imperial edict ordered the destruction of pagan temples in Gaza and the reinstatement of privileges for Christians. Additionally, Saint Porphyrios received funds from the emperor to construct a new church in Gaza, erected on the very site of the chief pagan temple. The Church of Saint Porphyrios stands as a testament to his enduring legacy.

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