The returning priests and other Christians could not help but shed tears of joy.
After fleeing from invading Islamic State (ISIS) barbarians in 2014, they returned early this week to their village in Iraq, one of several villages in the Nineveh Plain that were liberated by Iraqi and Kurdish forces from ISIS, according to World Watch Monitor.
"I am so happy I can do this. I'm smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now," said Father Thabet as he and other priests joined Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers in praying, some in tears, thanking God for helping them liberate their land from ISIS occupation forces.
Father Thabet climbed Barbara Hill and planted a large Cross firmly on the ground overlooking Karamles, his village.
"My dream is to bring all the Christians back to this village. Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will have the Eucharist in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the Church; this is the Body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream – to give a testimony to the world," Father Thabet said.
A depressing sight greeted the returning Iraqi Christians on their village. Father Thabet said his church had been heavily damaged, with its Cross thrown to the ground. The Cross, symbol of Christ's victory over evil, had been deemed illegal by ISIS.
However, fears that the Christian village would be completely uninhabitable turned out to be false, according to World Watch Monitor.
The same sight greeted the returning Christian residents of Qaraqosh. Another priest, Father Ammar, replanted the Cross on their church after the town had been liberated.
"I praise God for this wonderful day," Fr. Ammar said. "Yes, they destroyed and burned some houses and churches, but we can rebuild them. What counts is that we have prayed here and have put up the Cross.
"After being away for exactly 811 days, after being attacked by the forces of darkness and evil, we have come back to worship in freedom," he added.
One Christian photographer who just returned from Qaraqosh estimated that 30 percent of the houses have been severely damaged or destroyed. The rest just need a "thorough cleaning," he said.
It may take some time before many of the families who escaped the ISIS takeover can start returning to their villages close to Mosul. Officials said most of them may have to wait for Mosul itself to be liberated and for ISIS to be driven out completely before they can return to their homes.