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Catholics Place Statue of Mary on War-Damaged Church in Iraq

The image is to signify hope for Qaraqosh, one of the most influential Christian towns in Iraq.

In preparation for Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to Iraq in March, a statue of the Our Lady has been placed atop a formerly desecrated church in Qaraqosh, Iraq.

The Syrian Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary, known as the biggest Christian church in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains region, was badly desecrated and burned during the reign of the Islamic State from 2014 to 2016. Homes, churches, libraries, and other cultural heritage sites around the church were destroyed as well.

Because of the terrors that had been happening, tens of thousands of people had fled the Christian town of Qaraqosh. And even when the town has been freed from the Islamic State since 2016, many are still fear returning. (Read: Pope Francis: “Pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters may be heard”)

Hope for Qaraqosh

A member of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, a Christian militia, lights a candle on the burned altar at Tahera Church in Qaraqosh, Iraq. (Photo from Holly Pickett / Christian Science Monitor)

As a way of restoring people’s confidence in Qaraqosh, Catholic groups, charities, and other organizations have been working tirelessly in rebuilding the town’s homes and churches — particularly the Syrian Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary.

Fr. Paul Thabit Mekko, local parish priest, says they started to slowly rebuild the church over the years. And as their way of signifying hope for Christians in Iraq, they decided to have a new statue of the Our Lady placed atop the church’s bell tower. (Read: Four IG-worthy shrines in the PH that are dedicated to Mama Mary)

“A local Christian artist, a sculptor called Thabit Michael, did the work. He also made the statue of Our Lady for the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad (scene of a massacre by al-Qaeda in 2010),” Fr. Mekko said.

“Evangelization in our land is also done with art,” said Fr. Mekko. “[The statue] is fundamental to maintaining [the Christian] identity.”

Papal Visit in Iraq

Pope Francis meets Iraqi President Barham Saleh on 25 January 2020 (Photo from AFP / Vatican News)

In December last year, the Vatican confirmed that the Pope will be going on an apostolic visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8, 2021. (Read: Pope Confirms First International Visit Since Start of Pandemic)

He will be seeing the people of Baghdad, the plain of Ur, Mosul, and Qaragosh in what is said to be his first international visit after going on a 15-month hiatus due to the pandemic.

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