In charred church near Mosul, Iraqi Christians pray once more

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

23 PHOTOS
Iraqi Christians pray in a destroyed church
See Gallery
Iraqi Christians pray in a destroyed church
An Iraqi Christian prepares for the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah 
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
A cross is seen on the damaged altar of the Grand Immaculate Church after it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi priest holds the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Damage is pictured outside the church of Saint Barbara after it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi Christian soldiers attend the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian police attends the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian soldier attends the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian police takes pictures during the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian prepares for the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian soldier lights a candle during the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
The damaged altar in the Grand Immaculate Church seen after the church was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi Christian soldiers attend the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian soldier lights a candle during the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
An Iraqi Christian soldier holds his weapon during the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi Christian soldiers attend the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul in Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah 
A Christian Iraqi special forces soldier walks in a church in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic 
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

QARAQOSH, Iraq (Reuters) - Surrounded by charred walls and in front of a ruined altar, dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrated mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh on Sunday for the first time since it was recaptured from Islamic State.

Church bells rang out in the town on the southeastern approaches to Mosul where Iraqi troops, backed by U.S.-led air and ground forces, have been driving back the Sunni Muslim jihadists ahead of a battle for the city itself.

"Today Qaraqosh is free of Daesh (Islamic State)," Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Butrus Moshe told worshippers.

Islamic State has targeted the adherents and religious sites of minority communities in both Iraq and Syria. When it seized control of Mosul two years ago it issued an ultimatum to Christians: pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword.

Most abandoned their homes and fled toward the autonomous Kurdish region, abandoning one of Christianity's earliest centers.

"Our role today is to remove all the remnants of Daesh," the archbishop said. "This includes erasing sedition, separation and conflicts, which victimized us," said the archbishop, who was born in Qaraqosh.

"Political and sectarian strife, separating between one man and another, between ruler and follower, these mentalities must be changed," he said.

Christianity in northern Iraq dates back to the first century AD. The number of Christians fell sharply during the violence which followed the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the Islamic State takeover of Mosul two years ago purged the city of Christians for the first time in two millennia.

It was from a Mosul mosque that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" in 2014, spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria. The recapture of the city would mark the effective defeat of the Iraqi wing of that domain.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners