A liturgical prayer book in the Aramaic language developed around the 14th and 15th centuries, a survivor of the iconoclastic fury of the Islamic State (IS) organization, was presented to Pope Francis at the end of the general audience on February 10, 2021.
Ivana Borsotto, president of FOCSIV, the Federation of Christian Organizations in International Voluntary Service, explained to Pope Francis: “Today, we are happy to symbolically hand this book into the hands of Your Holiness so that it may return home, to the Church in that martyred land, in a sign of peace and brotherhood.”
It is through this association that the “Sacred Book” of Qaraqosh could be restored. In 2014, during the invasion of the Nineveh Plain by the jihadists of the IS, thousands of Christians took the path of the exodus, taking with them many ancient manuscripts, witnesses of the millennial presence of Christianity in the region.
Sidra, the “sacred book” of Qaraqosh, is one of these surviving works. Composed between the 14th and 15th centuries in the Aramaic language, it contains liturgical prayers to be recited between the feast of Easter and that of the Holy Cross.
Restored in Italy, the precious work was presented to the Sovereign Pontiff, who should take it with him during his next apostolic trip to Iraq, scheduled for next March.
“Sidra, although deprived of its incipit and its last pages mutilated, will continue to mark the liturgical year in Aramaic, and will always be sung by the inhabitants of the Plain of Nineveh, reminding everyone that another future is always possible,” emphasized Ivana Borsotto.
It took no less than ten months of meticulous work to succeed in preserving Sidra from a probable end: “its deplorable state of conservation, its provenance and its material and structural peculiarities, required a preliminary examination by experts in the Syriac language,” before approaching the surgical phase, recalled the president of FOCSIV.
Like Sidra, several thousand manuscripts have been preserved from the clutches of ISIS, thanks to the initiative of the clergy of the Nineveh Plain. We must mention here the figure of the current Archbishop of Mosul, Msgr. Michel Najeeb, who, foreseeing the jihadist invasion, had devised a two-pronged strategy: extraction of manuscripts that could be moved, and the massive digitization of books, including some dating back to the 11th century.
Next March, the “Sacred Book of Qaraqosh” is expected to be returned by the Pope in person to the Syrian Catholic Church in Qaraqosh where it will be able to be used again.