Mosul’s Church Square decorated with two symbolic crosses to welcome Pope Francis

One is made out of burnt chairs from churches that ISIS destroyed while the other has engravings of Mosul’s landmarks

Omar stayed under ISIS. He was making statues in the basement of his house. After ISIS, his works filled public squares and art galleries. Today, he was strongly present to install the cross which contained all the civilizations of this land. This is taken taken in Mosul’s Old Town, in Church Square where Pope Francis will hold a prayer. Courtesy Ali Y. Al-Baroodi

Two hand-made crosses are on display in Mosul’s Church Square as the city awaits the visit of Pope Francis on Sunday.

One is made out of burnt chairs from churches that ISIS destroyed and the other has Mosul’s landmarks engraved on it.

“The cross was built from burnt chairs from churches in the Nineveh Plain, we kept the wood in the storage and it took one day to assemble, which was done last Thursday,” said Faisal Jeber, an Iraqi geologist who is trying to restore historical sites damaged by ISIS in the northern city.

The idea came after a discussion with Chaldean Father Thabet Habib Youssef, pastor of the Church of St Adday in the Christian town of Karamles, Mr Jeber told The National.

He is the founder of Gilgamesh centre for antiquities and heritage protection in 2015, which was the first to enter and assess damaged Christian sites in Nineveh.

The second cross was created by Omar Qais, a sculpture from Mosul.

“We present this status as a gift by the name of the people of Mosul depicting peaceful coexistence,” Mr Qais said in a video on Twitter.

“It’s a moment of glory, we are happy to receive the Pope here in Mosul,” he said.

A sculpture of a white dove sits on top of the cross while two hands, representing Mosul’s men and women, hold the Christian symbol.

During ISIS's occupation of the city, Mr Qais was building statues in the basement of his home. Since the defeat of ISIS in 2017, his artwork has filled public squares and art galleries.

Omar stayed under ISIS. He was making statues in the basement of his house. After ISIS, his works filled public squares and art galleries. Today, he was strongly present to install the cross which contained all the civilizations of this land. This is taken taken in Mosul’s Old Town, in Church Square where Pope Francis will hold a prayer. Courtesy Ali Y. Al-Baroodi

Father Olivier Poquillon, a French Dominican and head of Al Saa'a Church in the heart of Mosul's Old City, told the The National that atmosphere in the square was vibrant and lively as the public awaited the Pope's arrival. 
"On the podium, we have one cross which is dark made from wood and the other one is a bright cross of glory signaling that life is stronger than death," Father Olivier said.

"It has been made by Christian and Muslim groups all together,” he said

Pope Francis is set to hold a prayer for victims of ISIS and war at Al Tahera Church in the northern city’s Church Square, which is surrounded by several places of worship used by Iraq’s different Christian denominations.

Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic churches can be found in and around the small square that is locked in by low-rise houses in Mosul’s Old City.

Before the US-led war that topped Saddam Hussein in 2003, Mosul was Iraq’s second-largest city, known for its diversity, religious conservatism and nationalism.

For three years, from 2014 to 2017, ISIS overran Mosul, desecrating many of its buildings including its churches and used the buildings to run its administration, including as a jail and a court.

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