Archbishop of Mosul: reports of destruction of Church of the Immaculate Virgin untrue
by Joseph Mahmoud
On the sidelines of the Synod, underway today in Baghdad, Msgr. Nona states that reports that the church was burned to the ground "are not true." Alleged killing of priest also unfounded. No Christians left in the area after the Islamists seizure of power.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "The news of the destruction of the church of the Immaculate Virgin is not true", clarifies Msgr. Shimoun Emil Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, in the north, the second most important city of the country and the first city to fall into the hands of the militia of the Islamic State. Yesterday some Arab Christian and international media published a Nineveh police report, that the jihadists razed the historic building, one of the oldest and largest places of worship, of the Chaldean community in Iraq.

Speaking to AsiaNews on the sidelines of the Chaldean Church Synod underway in Baghdad, Msgr. Nona informs that "the news of the church is not true", as was the recent rumor - also unfounded - of the killing of a priest. Last June, the church had come under the scrutiny of the jihadists, who knocked down and decapitated the statue surmounting the clock-tower.

The Church of the Immaculate Virgin stood on the old foundations of the oldest Christian place of worship in the city.  It was destroyed in the past centuries, and had already been the subject of attacks and bombings. On 17 January 2008 a car bomb exploded in front of the church, injuring two people; not far from the church is the old Chaldean bishop's residence, attacked in 2004.

Msgr. Nona was the first to raise the alarm of the danger posed by the advance of the Islamists after the conquest of Mosul, where about 500 thousand people - Muslims and Christians - fled in early June to avoid being forced to convert to Islam.  It was also where the militants founded their caliphate and imposed sharia. For months the city has been inaccessible to international press; the Christian community itself has entirely fled, and there are no more members of the minority in the area.