IRAQ: New archbishop offers new hope

Archbishop Nizar Semaan of Mosul
Archbishop Nizar Semaan of Mosul

A Catholic priest formerly in London has returned to Iraq to become a bishop ministering to a people recovering from genocide.

Monsignor Nizar Semaan was ordained Archbishop of Mosul in a church still partly blackened by desecration carried out by Daesh (ISIS) extremists determined to destroy all evidence of Christian presence in the Nineveh Plains.

The new archbishop, who for 14 years was UK Syriac Catholic chaplain in London, now presides over an ancient Oriental-rite Christian community still coming to terms more than two years after invading Daesh forces were finally defeated.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need after the service, the new archbishop said: “I promise to work hand in hand with [the people] for the good of this city and the diocese.”

He said: “It is God’s will and I accept it as it is. I will do my best to realise the will of God in my service. That is the only thing I am going to do.”

The service took place in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, a building ACN has helped restore in Qaraqosh (Baghdeda), where most Christian buildings were desecrated by Daesh.

Qaraqosh is home to the largest Syriac Catholic community in the Nineveh Plains, part of a region where Christianity is said to date back to the first century AD.

About 50 percent of Christian families who fled Nineveh when Daesh invaded in 2014 are now back and 600 people packed into the church for Friday’s (7th June 2019) ceremony.

The archbishop, whose diocese spans Kirkuk in the south through to Dohuk in the north and which covers the whole of Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, was ordained bishop by His Beatitude Joseph III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch.

Iraq is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need which provided emergency help for Christians fleeing Daesh, enabled their return by repairing houses and is now renewing churches, parish halls and other key community structures.