With reports from the Gaza Strip indicating increasing hunger and practically nonexistent medical care, the Vatican’s children’s hospital has taken in the first of a number of young people being transported to Italy for medical treatment.
The effort to airlift and otherwise get children to a place where they can receive treatment came about partly through the efforts of a Franciscan friar who works in Gaza.
Vatican News reported that a special flight from Egypt brought “the first 11 children who are seriously ill or injured from the massive bombardments and fighting” to a military airport outside Rome on Monday evening.
“Had they stayed in Gaza, on-site treatment would have been difficult, if not impossible,” the Vatican said.
The children crossed the border into Egypt and from there, boarded planes. They included 10 children and one young man who is 18.
“In Italy, they will all be treated in the most important pediatric hospitals, including the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù in Rome, which will take care of the first reception and sorting, as well as Gaslini Hospital in Genoa, Rizzoli Hospital in Bologna, and Meyer Hospital in Florence,” the report said. “Italy is the first European country to launch an international rescue operation for the victims of the war in Gaza.”
The initiative that allowed the children of Gaza to come to Italy to receive assistance had the support from the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, who recently told L’Osservatore Romano about his pastoral work with the families living in the Strip.
Asked what he could do for the injured or sick children, he said that he had “immediately activated with the Italian governmental structures and immediately received enthusiastic approval.”
Thanks to the dense network of relations established over the years, Fr. Faltas was able to initiate “an intense mediation activity involving Israelis, Palestinians, and Egyptians.”
The initial airlift was “a first sign of peace, peace that needs listening and humility,” Faltas told Vatican News.
More children coming
Following Monday’s airlift a hospital ship named Vulcano is due to set sail from the Egyptian coast on January 31 with some 50 accompanied minors. In four or five days, it is expected to moor in “a central port, depending on where the children will be hospitalized,” said Vatican News.
Following that, an airlift will start to take children currently hospitalized in Cairo to several Italian hospitals. The University of Perugia and San Marino’s hospitals indicated their availability.
Antonio Tajani, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told Vatican Media,
“We have worked intensively with the Israeli authorities, with the Palestinian national authorities, and with the Egyptian authorities. We concluded the negotiations on Thursday in Israel. It is a commitment we have made.”
“Italy,” he said, “continues to express its solidarity with those who are certainly innocent victims.”