Fr Mario da Silva is a Brazilian priest working in a small Catholic parish. Not unusual you might think. That is until you learn that Fr Mario's ministry is to offer spiritual support to the Christians of Gaza - that beleaguered, small strip of Palestinian land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean bordering Egypt and Israel.
Fr Mario has been priest of the Holy Family parish in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood for three years.
He welcomed the bishops of the Holy Land Coordination to his Church for Mass on Friday 8 January and afterwards gave a short reflection on the visit:
“I’m Fr Mario da Silva. I’m from Brazil and work in the Gaza Strip in the only Catholic parish we have here.
“I have been here for three years working with the Christian people. There are only 130 Catholic Christians and 1,200 Orthodox Christians. It is my work to work with them.
“It was a joy for us to welcome the bishops of the Holy Land Coordination. It was very beautiful because it was not a simple visit – it was very important.
“We know that all over the world you are praying for us and we can have power from your prayers.
“I told the bishops that their visit is a very beautiful work of mercy in this ‘Year of Mercy’. One of the works of mercy is to visit prisoners and we are in a very big prison here in Gaza – we cannot go out of our city.
“Thank you so much. God bless you and all your families and please pray for us.”