By Daily Mail
A French cardinal hailed the
"rebirth" of Iraq's devastated main
Christian town of Qaraqosh on Monday, where
residents are returning following two years
of jihadist rule.
Taking part in mass in the town's
cathedral, Lyon's Archbishop Cardinal
Philippe Barbarin spoke of both "sadness"
and "hope" on returning to the town, which
he had previously visited just a month
before the Islamic State group seized it
three years ago.
"I came here on July 29, 2014. It was
splendid, magnificent, there were choirs,
the church was full," he said.
"To return now and see it again, after so
much aggression, so much violence, so much
pillage, (to see it) being reborn is both
very sad and at the same time full of hope."
Barbarin, in the aftermath of the ouster
of IS from its Mosul stronghold, delivered a
sermon and gave communion at the Cathedral
of the Immaculate Conception.
Its belltower damaged and its insides
marred by flames, the church bears the scars
of more than two years of jihadist rule.
After seizing Qaraqosh (also known as
Hamdaniya) in August 2014, the jihadists
decapitated statues and dumped liturgical
books on the floor of the church.
Iraqi forces recaptured the town, around
15 kilometres (nine miles) from the edge of
Mosul, in October, just two weeks after
launching what was to be a months-long
assault on the jihadists' stronghold in
Iraq's second city.
Most retaken areas were far from
immediately habitable, however.
Months of mine clearing and
reconstruction were needed before the town's
50,000 residents, most of whom had fled
within days of the jihadist takeover, could
But eight months since Iraqi forces
ousted IS, the town is slowly coming back to
A few hundred families have now come
back, shops are reopening and six schools
are due to resume operations by mid-August.
Around a hundred people in civilian and
military dress attended Monday's mass.
"Cardinal Philippe's visit is a visit of
solidarity, which gives us a huge morale
boost. It's a sign that there are people
outside Iraq... who share the suffering
we're going through today in Iraq," said
Khalil Moussa, 42.
Yohanna Petros Mouche, the Syriac
Catholic archbishop of Mosul, said he prayed
for "hope in the hearts of all the
inhabitants of Qaraqosh and all who are
He had "both an infinite sadness and an
extraordinary hope for the rebirth of this
country, this city, this region".