French cardinal highlights hope in rebirth of Iraqi Christian town

The rebirth of the Christian town of Qaraqosh in Iraq is full of sadness and hope at the same time, according to a French cardinal who returned to the place two years after the Islamic State took over.

(REUTERS / Robert Pratta)French Archbishop Philippe Barbarin attends a Good Friday mass in Saint-Jean Cathedral in Lyon, France, March 25, 2016.

During a mass held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh on July 24, Lyon's Archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin recalled how magnificent the house of worship was when he visited the town in 2014. However, he saw the devastation caused by the jihadist rule when he returned to the Christian town on Monday, the AFP detailed.

"I came here on July 29, 2014. It was splendid, magnificent, there were choirs, the church was full," Cardinal Barbarin told some 100 civilians and military troops who attended the mass. "To return now and see it again, after so much aggression, so much violence, so much pillage, (to see it) being reborn is both very sad and at the same time full of hope."

Cardinal Barbarin gave a sermon and also administered communion to the mass attendees. For the crowd who received him, his visit was a show of solidarity and a sign that the people of Qaraqosh are not the only ones in Iraq who are struggling.

Some of the Christians who were displaced when ISIS took over the region surrounding Mosul are slowly trickling back to their hometowns after the terror group was defeated. However, many say they need time to reestablish their trust for the people who betrayed them, Catholic News Service reported.

On July 20, Patriarch Louis Sako of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church visited Mosul and looked at the churches damaged during the jihadist rule. He said the battle was not yet over and that stability in the region is still elusive.

In addition, Radio Free Europe quoted Patriarch Sako as warned that Christians cannot really return to their hometowns if their homes are still in ruins and if there are no available services for them. He highlighted safety as the most important thing for the returning believers for now.