What is the symbolism of the stole that Pope Francis will receive in Qaraqosh, Iraq?

THE HOLY FATHER WILL VISIT AL-TAHIRA CHURCH Sunday, March 7in Qaraqosh, the town in northern Iraq also known as Baghdeda or Bakhdida. Father Yako Ammar, the parish priest of Al-Tahira, explains to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supported the restoration of the church which had been badly damaged by ISIS, the symbolism of the stole Pope Francis will receive at Al-Tahira.

The stole is entirely handmade from the fabric woven by Khaya Bakter, a local artisan, in the traditional colors of Qaraqosh, black and purple. Gorjia Kapo, a mother of two sons and a daughter, was then entrusted with the task of embroidering and decorating the stole. Her family has lived in Qaraqosh for many generations, but in 2014 they had to flee because of ISIS. Now she and her family have returned and decided to stay to rebuild the town and resume its traditions. One of Gorjia’s sons decided to become a priest and was ordained a year ago.

Khaya Bakter weaving one of the stoles

“On one side of the stole is the Lord’s prayer in our language, Syriac, which comes from Aramaic, the original language of Jesus. On the other side is the Hail Mary,” says Father Ammar, who designed the stole.

“The crosses at the two ends of the stole are the crosses of Al-Tahira church, the same crosses as inside the church that were destroyed by ISIS during its occupation of the Nineveh Plains. These crosses are now the symbol of a new life. As the stole is a very symbolic ornament for us priests, Gorjia has also included bread and wine in the embroidery, the symbols of the Eucharistic mystery,” explains Father Ammar.

The Iraqi priest ordered two stoles to be presented to the Pope in Qaraqosh: the one made by Gorjia, as a symbol of the Christians who decided to stay in Qaraqosh despite all the difficulties, and one made by Iman Qasab, a Christian from Qaraqosh who had to– give up her roots and culture to emigrate to Canada during the terrorist occupation. The latter stole is decorated with a palm tree, the symbol of Iraq, which also appears in the logo of the Pope’s visit.

Both fates—of those who have returned and stayed on despite many hardships, as well as of those who had to leave their homeland—dare part of this city, and both kinds of sufferings will be represented in the gift to Pope Francis.

IStole made by Gorjia Kopa who lives in Qaraqosh.

—Maria Lozano