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UPDATE: Pope condemns attack on Gaza parish where Israeli sniper killed 2 Christian women

A Divine Liturgy is celebrated at Holy Family Church in Gaza City Dec. 15, 2023, one day before the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said that an Israel Defense Forces sniper shot and killed a mother and daughter as they walked to a convent in the Holy Family Parish compound. (OSV News photo/courtesy Holy Family Parish)

ROME (OSV News) – Following the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s denouncement of a series of attacks on Christians in Gaza by Israeli forces Dec. 16, including the killing of a mother and daughter at a Catholic parish, Pope Francis and numerous bishops across the globe also condemned the attack, calling for peace.

In a heartfelt appeal during an Angelus prayer Dec. 17, the pope called for an end to the “terrorism” of war, condemning the previous day’s attack in which an Israel Defense Forces sniper shot and killed Nahida Khalil Anton, and her daughter, Samar Kamal Anton, as they walked to a convent at the Holy Family Parish compound in Gaza. The convent of the Missionaries of Charity also was targeted.

The pope appealed for an end to a war that is ravaging the Holy Land, praying especially for the Catholic parish community in Gaza where “unarmed civilians are the targets of bombings and gunfire.”

The pontiff emphasized that the attack occurred on the premises “where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, and nuns.”

“A mother, Mrs. Nahida Khalil Anton, and her daughter, Samar Kamal Anton, were killed, and others were wounded by the shooters while they were going to the bathroom,” Pope Francis said, adding, “Yes, it is war. It is terrorism,” and asking for peace.

While avoiding language that directly criticized the IDF, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem stated in a Dec. 16 statement that the mother and daughter were “murdered.”

Bishops across the globe were shocked to receive the news from the Holy Land, including Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Expressing “great sadness and horror” over the “death and destruction of innocent people,” the archbishop called for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities,” the release of the hostages and “earnest” peace negotiations.

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