12/05/2022, 12.38
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Ur: the Church of Abraham is born, a meeting place resulting from the pope's visit

Construction work on the centre continues, with 30% of the project completed in three months. The building will stand on 10,000 square metres and will have a hall dedicated to Francis for interfaith events. The church will be flanked by a mosque. Bells ring again in St Paul's parish in Mosul. 

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - A place of worship, a common house for all the Abrahamic religions and a centre open to encounter and interfaith dialogue, in the spirit that animated the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Iraq in March last year.

Construction work continues on the Church of the Chaldeans dedicated to Abraham in Ur, one of the stops on the Pontiff's visit along with Mosul, Baghdad and Najaf, where he met the country's highest Shia authority, Ayatollah al-Sistani, is proceeding unabated. According to the Baghdadhope website, the church is "one of the most important fruits" linked to the pontiff's presence.

In recent days, project curator Talib al-Rikabi stressed that in three months "about 30%" of the construction work on the church had been completed. The expert added that the building will rise "on an area of 10,000 square metres" and will include "a large hall of 600 square metres". To this will be added a '23-metre high bell tower'. 

The project has also been closely followed by Muslim leaders and local authorities since its first steps: last July, at the beginning of the works, the deputy governor of Dhi Qar Ghassan al-Khafaji explained that "the church will be dedicated to Ibrahim Al-Khalil, or 'Friend of God', which is the epithet by which Abraham is identified.

He "is the father of the prophets" and "born in this land", while the vast interdenominational hall will be renamed Pope Francis Hall in honour of the pontiff according to the instructions given by the Chaldean Patriarch, Card. Louis Raphael Sako. 

Donations from private individuals have also been received for the construction, such as the approximately two million euro pledged by a wealthy Iraqi businessman, the entrepreneur Edouard Fatohui Boutros.

The church will also be flanked by a mosque, as part of the initiative aimed at peaceful co-existence between religions in the land of the prophet, and will be a considerable tourist and religious landmark capable of ensuring an economic return. 

The Ur pole will be an attraction and destination for pilgrims from all over Iraq. Al-Rikabi explains that the archaeological site in the area will serve to 'put pressure on upstream countries to "increase the release of water necessary for the survival of the swamps, the original home of the Sumerians.

This last point is a reminder of the age-old problem of water systems facing the Arab country, linked not only to climate change, but to the construction of large dams by Turkey on the Tigris (Ilisu Dam) and Iran (Daryan Dam) on the Euphrates.  

Further north, in mid-November, the Christian community of Mosul celebrated the return of the ringing of bells in St Paul's Church. In an atmosphere of joy and emotion for a community that is still marked by the violence of the Islamic State and the exodus linked to the jihadist advance, the faithful were able to hear the tolling of the bell, operated by Msgr Najib Mikhael Moussa, archbishop of the northern metropolis.

The bell was preserved by a Muslim family in the city, who preserved it from the devastating fury of the caliphate militiamen. Destroyed by Isis, St Paul's Church was opened for the first time in 2019 and is now considered the seat of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul.

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