Just 48 hours before Pope Francis’ historic visit to Iraq – the first of any pope to the country – we’re bringing you an interview with the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Hadiab-Erbil – Archbishop Nizar Semaan.
Archbishop Nizar was ordained Archbishop in his home city of Qaraqosh in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
The church, 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.
“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.”