Cardinal Nichols Praises Gaza Christians: 'Their Faith Is Strong'

The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster visited Gaza on Sunday, praising the region's tiny Christian population for their faith.

Cardinal Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, went to the war-torn strip hoping to give a spiritual boost for the few Christians that remain. After nearly 10 years of Hamas rule, the number of Christians in the coastal enclave has plummeted from more than 3,000 to just 1,200 now.

Vincent Nichols was admitted as a cardinal in 2014 by Pope Francis.Reuters

"There've always been Christians here. Their numbers are small, but I believe their faith is strong," he said.

Nichols celebrated Mass at the Holy Family Church on Sunday and asked the Virgin Mary to "pray for the protection" for Christians in Gaza. 

The President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales was appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 2009 and admitted as a Cardinal in 2014.

Later that year he visited Gaza for the first time after the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. More than 2,200 Palestinians including 100s of civilians were killed, according to UN figures. In Israel 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed in the fighting.

Nichols said on Sunday he saw "some signs of rebuilding, there is an awful lot of damage that is still untouched."

"The whole world is worried about the stability of the Middle East," where both Christians and Muslims "are persecuted and murdered by the extremists," he said.