Named for Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, instruments will restore a familiar sound to a place known for Christian-Muslim coexistence.
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Church bells were once a common sound in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, home to a significant Christian population. But for almost a decade, since the Islamic State group took over the area, the bells have been silent.
The local Catholic priest in Mosul, however, has hope that the bells will sound again by next Easter.
“Each week, our Muslim neighbors are asking me when the bells of ‘their church’ will ring again. With the help of God, I hope that UNESCO will be able to install them just before Lent, allowing us to celebrate the Resurrection hearing their voice for Easter 2023,” Fr. Olivier Poquillon, O.P., told Aleteia.
Paris native Fr. Poquillon oversees Our Lady of the Hour, a church and priory founded in the late 19th century by the Order of Preachers. The complex is known in Arabic as Al-Saa’a.
Last week, UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency, announced that three newly-cast bells will leave Normandy, France, in early March 2023, and be shipped to Mosul to be installed in the church tower there. The bells – named for the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael – were cast in the Cornille Havard foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles. [Photo above shows UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, left, Dominican Father Nicolas Tixier, prior of the Dominican Province of France, center, and Iraqi Ambassador to France Wadee al-Batti at unveiling of bells in Normandy December 5.]
The bells “will soon echo in the streets in Mosul, from the top of the Al-Saa’a Church, partially destroyed by violent extremism and war,” the UN agency announced December 14.
In addition, on Tuesday, a team installed crosses atop the two domes of the church, with the community “praying Jesus, Prince of Peace to extend his blessing and protection on all of the citizens of Mosul,” Fr. Poquillon said in an email.
“Putting back the cross on the top of our life is a major symbolic step,” he said.