Iraq: Archbishop Nizar Semaan

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Nizar Semaan talks about his home city of Qaraqosh. Pope Francis will pray the Angelus in the newly-reconstructed Church of the Immaculate Conception where Archbishop Nizar was ordained in 2019.

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Nineveh Plains

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Nizar Semaan was ordained Archbishop in his home city of Qaraqosh in the north of Iraq.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception, the biggest in the Nineveh Plain, was severely damaged by Islamic State fighters six years ago but now, in 2021, it returns to the gaze of the wider world for the right reasons.

On 7 March, Pope Francis will pray the Angelus in the Church of the Immaculate Conception now crowned with a new statue of Mary placed on the reconstructed bell tower, which had been demolished by the extremists.

Pope Francis will stand in solidarity with the Christian community of Qaraqosh – a people who suffered greatly when churches, shops, houses and farms were destroyed by ISIS during its occupation. Tens of thousands fled and many were persecuted and killed.

“In our city of Qaraqosh they are working very hard to prepare everything… The church where I was ordained is now ready to welcome the Holy Father. He will be the first to enter into this church after the restoration – the biggest church in the area. It’s a sign of love from the Holy Father to visit Qaraqosh.

“Although it is not exactly one hundred percent a good situation, Qaraqosh has 25,000 people belonging to the Syriac Catholic Church. Before ISIS, we were 50,000. So half the city left during the ISIS invasion – many to Europe, others to Baghdad, Kurdistan and elsewhere.

Qaraqosh is ready. We’re preparing and you can see the joy of this preparation. So on behalf of everyone from Qaraqosh, I say to the father, ‘thank you’. Because you thought about us and you are coming to visit our city, Qaraqosh, and to go into our church, which was bombed by ISIS and destroyed by ISIS.”

Clip

Here’s a clip from our 19-minute interview.

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