Pope to go to Iraq church broken by IS militants | Nationwide Information

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Iraqi Christians clean the roof of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.



Pope visits Iraqi church damaged by IS fighters

An Iraqi Christian cleanses the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.



Pope visits Iraqi church damaged by IS fighters

Iraqi Christians cleanse the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Tuesday February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.



Pope visits Iraqi church damaged by IS fighters

Iraqi Christians place a placard in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq. Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.



Pope visits Iraqi church damaged by IS fighters

Iraqi Christians cleanse the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Tuesday February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.



Pope visits Iraqi church damaged by IS fighters

Iraqi Christians cleanse the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Tuesday February 23, 2021. Pope Francis will visit the church during his historic trip to Iraq. The tragedy of the Church, damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror, reflected the tragedy of its Christian community that was destroyed by the group.

From MARIAM FAM Associated Press

The scenes are branded in memory of Rev. Ammar Altony Yako: a church that for decades has been the pride of the city of Qaraqosh, a center for Christian life in Iraq, was badly scarred.

Yako saw it in 2016 when Qaraqosh was liberated from more than two years of Islamic state group rule. The proclamation “Islamic State will remain” was scrawled on a wall. In the midst of the rubble in a courtyard, bullet-riddled mannequins and other telltale signs of a makeshift firing range of the militants for target practice were scattered.

On Sunday a new scene for the world will play out in the Church of the Immaculate Conception and new memories will be created. Where once the extremists did damage, Pope Francis will now pray.

“I never thought that His Holiness the Pope would visit this church, not even in my dreams,” said Yako, who oversaw the reconstruction of the church. “It’s a very, very unexpected and very happy event.”

It is also rich in symbolism.

Amid a pandemic and security challenges, the Pope’s historic journey takes him to Christian communities like Yakos, which were hit by the IS attack in 2014. Christians in the region had to escape the ancestral towns and villages as militants swept through northern Iraq. Many have since dispersed abroad, and their exodus has fueled existential fears over the already dwindling Christian population in Iraq.