Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2014 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem hopes the new indefinite ceasefire in Gaza will hold, cautioning that victory cannot come from violence and that compromise is vital on both sides for it to last.
“This time we are much more hopeful for one important reason: no one is victorious after two months. Two are losers I believe, no one is victorious even if someone says 'I won.' No one won,” Bishop Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNA Aug. 27.
Each has “finally understood that no one can destroy the other” and that “there is a need for a compromise” as well as “a comprehensive solution to the problem,” he said.
The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.
According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza's access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.
The agency reports that immediately Israel is to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel's call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.
Israel originally launched their Operation Protective Edge July 8 with the stated goal of ending rocket fire from Hamas. To date, at least 2,140 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, BBC reports, while 11,000 have been injured.
U.N. officials state that more than 17,000 buildings in the area have either been destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are at least 475,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), which is over a quarter of the territory's population.
Of all the needs Gaza citizens are currently facing after 50 days of intense fighting, Bishop Shomali explained that “The greatest need is humanitarian. Medical needs for the wounded, hospitals which are overcrowded.”
“There is also the need for food nourishing these people” and “in the future we need special psychological treatment for traumatized children.”
Currently the situation “is difficult because of the big number of victims,” he said, stating that “Many, many homes were destroyed, many families lost everything; their house, maybe they lost their dear ones in the house. It’s tragic.”
Explaining how patriarchate opened their schools to those seeking shelter and fleeing from the ongoing attacks, Bishop Shomali noted that at least 1,000 people sought refuge there.
Now they are preparing for a new academic year, but there is a lot of work to do in restoring the schools after the presence of so many who were homeless.
“We have to refurnish it, paint it, renew the windows and the doors. It’s been a mess,” he said, revealing that they will also “dispensate” families “from paying any fees because they have no money. So we take care of all of the scholarships of the students, this is a big amount.”
Noting how the Holy See has been helping relief efforts through numerous Catholic aid organizations such as Caritas Jerusalem and Catholic Relief Services, the bishop explained that “we thank the Holy See because they are very aware of the situation.”
“The Holy Father was very close to us, very close to the parish priest of Gaza, so we are really consoled by the proximity of the Catholic Church with us.”
Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A South Korea-based U.S. missionary who frequently crosses the border to North Korea to bring medicine and support says that Pope Francis' visit advanced efforts to heal a divided country.
Father Gerard Hammond, an 81-year-old Maryknoll missionary, has lived in South Korea since 1960 and has made 51 trips to North Korea since 1995.
His mission: to stop deaths from Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in North Korea.
“Due to do the security laws in South Korea, it is very difficult to send humanitarian aid to North Korea without the agreement of the Ministry of Reunification,” the priest told CNA.
Fr. Hammond can enter North Korea thanks to the Eugene Bell Foundation, a U.S.-based organization allowed admission to enter the country to give humanitarian aid, which includes a “slot” for Catholic missionaries. The latest trip took place this spring from Apr. 21-May 6.
Their work is well-known in the Vatican, and Pope Francis had been informed about them.
“He met each one of the 14 Maryknollers in our Seoul House. When Pope Francis met me, he spoke two words, 'North Korea-tuberculosis' and squeezed my arm,” Fr. Hammond recounted.
He stressed that “the visit of our Holy Father was a great blessing for all of us especially for the Korean people that have suffered so much. His visit left a tremendous impression on all Koreans, Catholic and non-Catholic.”
“Now we have to implement the challenge to heal a divided country, society and church,” he said.
“I hope the visit of the Holy Father to be the spark for the beginning a move toward Peace on the Peninsula and for Reconciliation for the peoples of North and South Korea.”
Fr. Hammond will return to North Korea for a trip this fall from Oct. 13-Nov. 4, saying that “there is no shortage of places and people that need help, whether it is through medicine, diagnostic machines, or other critical supplies.”
Until now, “we delivered medical supplies to patients in 12 treatment centers. Starting early in the morning, we work ceaselessly to make sure all the patients waiting at each center could be tested and we could enroll as many new people as possible.”
Fr. Hammond explained CNA that the missionaries are able to use six Gene X-perts – state-of-the-art medical devices “that allow us to diagnose Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis within 2 hours and deliver medicine to critically-ill patients without having to wait 6 months until our next trip.”
“On each trip we treat a 1,000 Multi Drug Resistant tubercolosis patients.”
Until now, the missionaries have cured more than 70 percent of their patients, compared with a worldwide cure rate of only 48 percent.
Fr. Hammond recounted that “for the past few years, we have been providing nutritional assistance to patients to supplement their diet and aid in their quick recovery.”
“Patients receiving nutritional assistance have gained weight, energy, and are better prepared to finish their difficult multi-drug resistant treatment.”
He said he has been “happy to see patients who once had difficulty just holding up their boxes of medicine now happily talking about how they had put on extra pounds.”
For the majority of patients in North Korea who have been “suffering for years” from the condition, “there is no option for treatment” and “reliable testing for MDR-TB is not yet widely available.”
“For the sake of the unreached people of North Korea, we must keep fighting to bring medicine,” Fr. Hammond said.