harred black inside after the Islamic State set it aflame after taking control of the town in 2014. Now the restored cathedral is preparing to welcome Pope Francis during his trip to Iraq next month.
Pope Francis is set to be the first pope to visit Iraq. His four-day trip to the country March 5-8 will include stops in Baghdad, Mosul, and Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh).
The cathedral that the pope will visit in Bakhdida, served a growing Christian community, until the Islamic State turned the cathedral into an indoor shooting range from 2014-2016.
After the town’s liberation from the Islamic State in 2016, Masses resumed in the damaged cathedral as Christians returned to rebuild their community. Aid to the Church in Need committed to restore completely the cathedral’s fire-damaged interior in late 2019.
“I think it is very important to support this town because it is the biggest symbol of Christianity in Iraq. Until now, we kept it as a Christian city, but we do not know what the future will bring for us,” Fr. Georges Jahola, a parish priest from Bakhdida, told CNA in 2019.
A new Marian statue sculpted by a local Christian artist was placed atop the bell tower of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in January.
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