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Gazans find sanctuary in ancient church

Gaza’s only Greek Orthodox Church canceled its Sunday prayers and opened its doors to hundreds fleeing the Israeli bombardment of the Shajaiya neighborhood.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — On July 19, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Alexius was reciting prayers to a small congregation in the only Greek Orthodox Church in the Gaza Strip. He was surrounded by the Byzantine-style icons hung on the walls, the scent of incense filling this 1,600-year-old church.

But he was reciting prayers to a largely empty church, with few attending due to the war. Deacon Rami Ayad, nevertheless, expected the church to be filled with worshipers the next day, a Sunday, and said, “There are not many worshipers usually on Saturday, but we are expecting more, particularly those who live in the area.” After a loud noise interrupted him, he said, “It is a rocket launched by the resistance.”

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