CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Oldest monastery in Iraq destroyed

HONG KONG (SE): Satellite pictures obtained by The Associated Press on January 20 have confirmed that the Islamic State has destroyed the ruins Iraq’s oldest monastery, built in the sixth century.

The destruction of Dair Mar Elia (St. Elijah’s Monastery) in Mosul in all probability took place in the late summer of 2014.

“Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically levelled,” Father Paul Thabit Habib said. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.”

The Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, said the monastery was a special place for many, because it dated back to a time before the split between the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions.

“Unfortunately, there is this systemic destruction of precious sites, not only cultural, but also religious and spiritual. It is very sad and dramatic,” Father Lombardi said.

The Associated Press noted that the monastery has been used as a place of worship for millennia, with generations of monks praying in its chapel.

The Islamic State has been carrying out a pointed campaign aimed at destroying Christian churches and all other buildings it deems heretical.

Father Dankha Issa was quoted by Aid to the Church in Need as saying, “St. Elijah’s monastery was over 1,400 years old. It had stood abandoned for a long time. But it meant a lot to us Christians. It was an expression of our extremely long history in Iraq,” he said.

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