New bishop: Commitment to 'repopulate and evangelize' Mosul post Isis

Feb. 3 scheduled for episcopal ordination of Fr. Younan Hano. In the former capital of the Islamic caliphate, residents committed to rebuilding by working together. Commitment to peace and dialogue prevails, but economic element weighs. Need "time" to eradicate extremist ideology. The value of unity among churches and the relationship with the Chaldeans.

Mosul (AsiaNews) - The current situation in Mosul is "very good," the inhabitants seem to have left behind "the fear of cooperating with each other," and even for the returned Christians, not many so far, the climate is "favorable" for a recovery. Everyone, without distinction, "suffered" the violence of the Islamic State, which is why there is now a determination to rebuild together, Fr. Qusay Mubarak Abdullah (Younan) Hano, tells AsiaNews.

The 40 year old was indicated by the Synod of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate as the bishop the city known as the "capital" of the Islamic caliphate and the scene of terrible ethnic-confessional violence.

"Currently," he continued, "everyone is cooperating in a perspective of peace," and there is an awareness among the various religious components that they want to "spread the culture of peace and dialogue, while on the economic level it is all of Iraq that is suffering from a serious recession.

The episcopal ordination is scheduled for Feb. 3 in the large Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, one of the most important Christian centers in the Nineveh plain in the north of the country, where, moreover, Fr. Younan Hano himself was born on Sept. 10, 1982.

Presiding over the ceremony-an important and well-attended moment for a Church called to strengthen its presence and rebuild from the rubble-was Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians Ignace Youssif III Younan. The future bishop takes up the legacy of predecessor Msgr. Youhanna Boutros Moshe, who led the Syrian Catholic community in Mosul during the dark years of jihadist rule.

Fr. Hano completed studies in nursing, then entered seminary first in Baghdad then in Lebanon at the University of the Holy Spirit where he earned a baccalaureate degree in philosophy and theology.

Ordained June 29, 2011, for the Mosul Archieparchy of the Syrians, he was vicar of Mar Jacob Parish in Qaraqosh, special secretary to the archbishop, then with the invasion of the Nineveh Plain he took care of the displaced Syrians at the Mar Shmoni Church in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

His other positions include teaching sacred scripture, curator of a radio program, representative of the Iraqi Church in the Middle East Council of Churches, and collaborator of the Inter-Ritual Court in Erbil. Since 2019, he has been studying in Rome to pursue a doctorate in biblical theology.

"The Islamic State," he says, "no longer exists as a military force," but an "extremist ideology" remains and "time" is needed to "eradicate it. The presence in Mosul has "lasted a long time" and has "implanted" radical ideas in people's minds.

"Even today," he says, "there are religious people who follow this extremist ideology, but in general there is a change" that is "encouraging, because it leads to building a moderate society in the faith.

As for Christians, there are two different realities: only 70 families have returned to Mosul, while the plain is repopulating with 7,000 families in Baghdidia, 400 in Bartella, and 100 in Bashiqa.

At the level of the Churches, for Fr. Hano the relationship "is very good" so much so that at the ordination "I invited all" representatives of the various denominations, taking the opportunity "to open a new page of united work." Especially with the Chaldeans, with whom "we are one Church."

On the subject of pastoral work, the goal is to "focus on the spread and consolidation of the true Christian faith. In particular on 're-evangelization' of the people of my region: we must reorganize, systematize and teach," he continued, "with a focus on biblical interpretation. 

Finally, the newly appointed bishop of the Syrians of Mosul stresses the importance of the martyrs for the Iraqi Church, whose "memory is present among us" just as the memory of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq in March 2021 remains ever vivid.

"His presence among us," he concludes, "will long be remembered. [The pontiff] revitalized Christian life and enhanced us by making us feel part of the Catholic Church. People still remember him and hope that, in the future, he may return among them."