As Jihadists destroy Mosul's Church of the Immaculate Virgin, Chaldeans get ready for unity synod in Baghdad
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Islamic State militants blew up the Church of the Immaculate Virgin, one of the largest and oldest Chaldean churches in the old section of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and now a jihadist stronghold.
Security sources from the Nineveh police district report that the destruction took place last Monday, but given the difficulty in communication with the jihadist-held city, the information leaked out only today.
Using a great quantity of explosives, caliphate militants blew up the historic building, one of the largest and oldest places of worships belonging to the Chaldean community in Iraq.
Local witnesses report that the terrorists "finished wiring the church with explosives this morning and detonated it, leaving widespread destruction in the church and neighbouring buildings."
Jihadists had already targeted the church Last June when they tore down and decapitate the statue of Our Lady that stood on the clock tower.
The Church of the Immaculate Virgin stood on the foundation of what was the most ancient Christian church in Mosul - which had already been destroyed in past centuries.
Since Iraq's invasion, it had withstood attacks by Islamic militants, including a car bomb on 17 January 2008 that injured two people. Not far from the church is the old Chaldean Bishop's Residence, which was itself attacked in 2004.
Meanwhile today in Baghdad, the leaders of the Chaldean Church celebrated the ordination of two new bishops - Mgr Emanuel Hana Shaleta, from the Chaldean Diocese of Saint Addai and Mgr Basel Yaldo, the new patriarchal vicar.
Church Fathers are also getting ready for their Extraordinary Synod, scheduled for tomorrow, an important step in a period of major difficulties for the historic Church of the East.
In addition to the tragic fate of hundreds of thousands of faithful who, in recent months, were forced to flee Mosul and villages in the Nineveh plain to escape the Islamic State group, the Church is also facing some rebellious priests, monks and a bishop.
Since 2013, Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako and Bishop Sarhad Jammo of the Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle (San Diego, California) have been at loggerheads over several priests and monks who fled Iraq without permission of their bishops or superiors.
On several occasions, the patriarch called on the monks and priests to come back to Iraq, reminding the bishop of his duty of obedience, so far without results. On 17 February, the Vatican is expected to rule on the dispute, which does not seem easy to settle.
For his part, Mar Sako has announced that if his instructions continue to be disregarded, he would resign from the office of patriarch, because it would just be "an honorific title to which I am not attached."
Although the risk of a small schism within the Chaldean Church remains a real possibility, the Iraqi Church continues to show signs of vitality and hope.
This was best illustrated by the ordination of five deacons, 12 sub-deacons and various readers, of both sexes, some young, on 30 January in the Diocese of Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan. The local bishop, Mgr Rabban al Qas, led the solemn ceremony (pictured).
"The church was crowded, with a thousand faithful," the prelate told AsiaNews, "103 people involved in all" in the ordination ceremony. For the local community, "it was a day of celebration" an opportunity "to get together" and "bear witness to a strong living faith."