Pope Francis is due to visit Iraq from 5 – 8 March this year. One of the places on his proposed route is the town of Qaraqosh – or Baghdeda, as it is known to the Christians – some 25 miles (32 km) to the east of Mosul. Prior to the invasion by the so-called Islamic State (IS) it was the most populous Christian city in Iraq. Today, since the region was reconquered by the Iraqi forces and their allies in October 2016, tens of thousands of displaced Christians have returned to their former homes. According to the latest information published by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which helped in the repair and rebuilding of these houses, some 43% of the Christian families who formerly lived in Baghdeda prior to the IS invasion have since returned. ACN spoke to three Christians involved in the reconstruction work in the city and asked them what they were hoping for from the Pope’s visit.
Rooney Baqtar, a 42-year-old engineer:
Father Ammar Yako, a Syrian catholic priest, aged 44:
Fadi Saqat, 27, coordinator of ACN’s projects in the Niniveh Plains
Currently, ACN has many ongoing projects for reconstruction work and pastoral support for the local churches of the various different Christian rites in Iraq.