The Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches have issued a joint appeal calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after Israel damaged a Greek Orthodox Church last week.
The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius, believed to be the third oldest church in the world, was damaged in an Israeli airstrike on Thursday that killed more than a dozen people.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the primate of the Church of England, visited St. George’s College, an education center of the Anglican Communion in Jerusalem, and met with other Christian leaders to express solidarity with Palestinian Christians, according to a news release shared by the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem.
The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem is an ecumenical council of leaders in the Christian faith that includes the heads of the Greek Orthodox Church, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, among others.
Church leaders condemn Israeli strike in Gaza
In the news release, the church leaders said they condemn “in the strongest possible terms” the Israeli air strike that hit the church “without warning.”
“These blasts led to the sudden and catastrophic collapse of two church halls around the scores of refugees, including women and children, sleeping within,” the statement reads.
According to the statement, “Dozens found themselves instantly crushed beneath the rubble. Many were injured, some severely. At least 18 people have died, nine of whom were children.”
The church leaders also condemned Israel for its “ceaseless military demands to evacuate our charitable institutions and houses of worship” and called on both warring parties to obey the international rules of warfare in remarks apparently pointed at Hamas, the Gaza militia Israel considers a terrorist group.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to minister to the most vulnerable. And we must do so not only in times of peace,” the statement reads. “The church must especially act as the church in times of war.”
Meanwhile, the Orthodox Christians who were sheltering in the Gaza church are now seeking refuge in the neighboring Holy Family Catholic parish church.
Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and the figurehead of Orthodox churches worldwide, held a call with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III after the blast, according to a news release from the church.
Even Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church who has supported President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, criticized the attack on the Greek Orthodox Church in a letter to Theophilos.
“It was with deep sadness that I learned about the numerous casualties and serious destruction that occurred in the temple complex of St. Porphyrius as a result of the fighting in the Gaza Strip,” Kirill said in his letter.
“From the bottom of my heart, I sympathize with Your Beatitude, the members of the Holy Sepulcher Brotherhood and all your God-loving flock, and I express my sincere condolences to the relatives of the victims,” said Kirill. “May the Lord give peace to the souls of the departed, may he comfort their relatives in their sorrow, may he grant speedy healing to the injured and wounded.”