The blessing will take place at a stadium Mass celebrated by the pope during his visit to Iraq.
During his historic trip to Iraq, Pope Francis will bless a statue of the Blessed Mother that was desecrated by ISIS. The pope will conduct the blessing at a public Mass at a stadium in Erbil today. Expert artisans have been working to repair the statue before the papal visit.
According to a report from CNA, the statue was marred during the ISIS occupation of the Nineveh Plain, from 2014 to 2017. The statue of Our Lady was decapitated and her hands were cut off. The head was recovered and has been reattached to the statue, but the hands were lost.
The statue comes from the Christian village of Karamles. A report from the Italian outlet SIR noted that it will be returned to Karemlash after the Mass. Fr. Samir Sheer, director of Radio Mariam in Erbil, commented:
“After the blessing, the statue will return to the Nineveh Plains. The hope of local Christians is that Our Lady will soon return to hug her children in Karamles.”
The SIR report goes on to note that Pope Francis will be presented with a gift of fine art. The pontiff will receive a painting made by an expatriate Iraqi artist. The work portrays Pope Francis standing between St. Peter’s Basilica and the Ziggurat of Ur, symbolizing unity between Rome and Iraq. At the pope’s feet are footsteps in the sand representing the journey of God’s people in Iraq and their martyrs. Cuneiform characters are also placed throughout the piece as a reminder that Iraq was the birthplace of the written word.