Iraqi Christian Organizations Present Pope Francis With Restored Aramaic Manuscript

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Currents News Staff

Sidra, an Aramaic manuscript that’s at least 500 years old, belongs to the Syriac-Christian Church of Qaraqosh. It contains prayers to be recited between the feasts of Easter and the Holy Cross and is a gem for the Christian community, which is the largest in Iraq.

The book has a noteworthy story. It was objects like these that ISIS targeted. A group of priests managed to hide it, and in 2017, two Italian journalists found it.

It ended up in the hands of FOCSIV, a federation of Christian organizations dedicated to volunteer work. Its members restored the book.

They call it the “Refugee Book,” because it was a silent witness of the persecution of Iraq’s minorities between 2014 and 2017.

Before returning it to its land of origin, those who restored the book wanted to show it to Pope Francis.

“It had many problems. All the miniatures were covered with scraps of paper so they wouldn’t be visible,” they said. “The manuscript has a fascinating story, which we were able to write down.”

“You’ve worked miracles, haven’t you,” asked Pope Francis.

Lucilla Nuccitelli, from the ICPAL organization, which was in charge of the restoration, told the pope that it took 10 months to complete the project.

The president of the NGO that salvaged the book gave the pontiff a gift, with his upcoming trip to Iraq in mind.

“I am giving this to you as a symbol. It’s an apron for the women at our house in Qaraqosh,” they explained. “It’s a shelter for women, where they can receive formation and aid. It’s for refugee women.”

Pope Francis gave them a blessing and asked them for a favor, which has become a staple of his meetings.

“And pray for me, of course. And in favor, not against me,” he said.

“Certainly. Rest assured,” they answered.

In Iraq, the Holy Father will visit the Nineveh plains. He will arrive in Erbil on Sunday, March 7. There he will celebrate Mass. He will also visit Mosul and Qaraqosh.

This city is known as the Vatican of Iraq, as it is home to the country’s largest Christian community. It’s also the city that suffered the most damage from ISIS.