Pope to visit Iraq church damaged by IS militants

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Pope Francis leaves the Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation) Cathedral, in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. Pope Francis has honored victims of one of Iraq’s most brutal massacres of Christians by Islamic militants. He is making a visit to Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, where he has prayed and spoke with priests, seminarians and religious sisters. In 2010, al-Qaida-linked militants gunned down worshippers at the church in an attack that left 58 people dead. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

QARAQOSH, IRAQ (Associated Press) –In a stop rich in symbolism, Pope Francis will visit a church damaged during the Islamic State’s reign of terror in the town of Qaraqosh, a center for Christian life in Iraq.

A courtyard at the Church of the Immaculate Conception is believed to have been turned into a makeshift firing range by the militants.

Coming amid a pandemic and security challenges, the first papal visit to Iraq is hoped to encourage the country’s dwindling Christian communities, some ravaged during the IS reign. Says one sister of the visit: “His presence is healing.”

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