12/07/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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Mosul churches rise again a year after being attacked

The only eyewitness of the blast at the Bishop' residence talks about how they got back on their feet and about the local community's hopes for the future.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – A year to the day after bombs destroyed two Catholic churches in Mosul, signs are visible that the local community is getting back on its feet, full of hope.

On the afternoon of December 7, 2004, a group of men attacked the Armenian Catholic church in the Wihda district, in Mosul's eastern part. After expelling the security guards and two people who were in the church at the time, they detonated two bombs, eyewitnesses said. The blast wounded three people.

A few hours later, another group of four or five men attacked the Chaldean Bishop's residence, which is on the right shore of the Tigris River. The bishop, Mgr Paul Faraj Rahho, was absent on a pastoral mission.

The attacker ordered the only person present, Fr Ragheed Ganni, to get out, and then proceeded to set explosive devices, which they detonated.

Today father Ganni calls December 7 a day in which he "was reborn to a new life". The young priest, who is Bishop Rahho's secretary, told AsiaNews that he feels he "survived certain death" and that the "Holy Spirit was at work then as It is today".

"At the time, no one was hurt. I think this, too, was God's Will," he said, adding that "in the last 12 months we have achieved great results".

For example, the reconstruction of his parish church, Holy Spirit Church, which was damaged in another attack in August 2004, is almost done.

"We are still celebrating mass in the basement, but hope the church can open on december 23," he said.

The church itself is scheduled to be dedicated on Pentecost, the Parish's feast day.

The December 7 attack last year destroyed what the Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly called the "most beautiful symbol of the Chaldean Church in Iraq".

Father Ganni explained that the Bishop's See was just recently been moved, and that "the new house is small but welcoming".

"Pastoral work takes up much of my time, but it also gives me strength and courage to carry on what I started when I followed my vocation," he said.

"Attacks of this kind, the threats and abductions of Christians have led many Christian families to flee," said the Chaldean clergyman. "However, the churches always stayed open and people continue to attend mass even in the rubble".

The day after the attacks, Pope John Paul II expressed his solidarity to the Christians of Mosul. He said: "I feel 'spiritually close' to the faithful distressed by such attacks and beg the Lord through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin to finally bring reconciliation and peace to the dear people of Iraq."

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