(The Center Square) – Parishioners from Catholic churches in the Fargo, North Dakota, area are safe and will be on the way home this week from Israel.
The group of 84 were in the country when Hamas attacked on Saturday.
A Facebook post on the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church page on Monday said the group is safe. Israel has declared war and increased airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in a conflict that, as of Monday, had already claimed the lives of nearly 1,600 on both sides.
Nine Americans are reported dead.
“Restrictions have lightened today and checkpoints are opened allowing us to cross from Bethlehem to Jerusalem,” the post said. “Our return home will follow original plan leaving on Thursday.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday he spoke with Father Phil Ackerman of West Fargo’s Holy Cross Catholic Church.
“The attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel is reprehensible, and the fact it occurred on a Jewish holiday is despicable,” Burgum said. “We stand with our democratic ally Israel while lifting up in prayer the victims of these horrific attacks. We also pray for the safe return of the priests and parishioners from North Dakota congregations who are anxiously waiting to board flights home. Today we reached out to the U.S. State Department and spoke with Father Ackerman, offering to assist however possible to help ensure the safe return of those North Dakotans and all Americans wanting to return to U.S. soil.”