If the Iraqi Christians of the Nineveh Plain are now free to live their faith, they are nevertheless still prevented from going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, like all Christians in the Middle East, from Lebanon to Syria. To come to their aid, the Custody of the Holy Land has come up with an original initiative.
Since pilgrims can no longer go to the holy places, no matter what, the holy places will in a way come to them. This is the position of the Custody of the Holy Land, which has decided to circulate in Iraq a “Pilgrim relic” of the Holy Cross.
It was on August 17, 2017 that the precious relic entered the martyred city of Qaraqosh, to be received in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, with a great concourse of the faithful, touched by the gesture of the Franciscans of the Custody.
“It was a surprise for them”, explains Fr. Noor Tamas to Vatican News: “they felt close to the Holy Land, they who cannot even dream of going there, all these Christians of the East, even if they are close to Israel, cannot go there on pilgrimage.”
It is Fr. Tamas who is behind this initiative, supported by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton: “the relic of the Holy Cross represents the Holy Land for them. Having it here, even after the pope’s visit, made people realize that Qaraqosh is no longer an unknown small town, but an important point for all Christians in the East, as we now know that Qaraqosh is the only place in Iraq which bring together the majority of Christians,” continues the Franciscan.
In addition to the “pilgrim relic,” Fr. Tamas has set up a traveling exhibition composed of 22 panels telling the story of the shrines in the Holy Land, and retracing the major events that marked the life of the Custody.