UP Catholic 02 19 2016 E Edition Page 7

www.upcatholic.org THE U.P. CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS February 19, 2016 7 U.S. Army chaplain last to celebrate Mass on ancient altar WASHINGTON, D.C. - During his 2009-10 deployment to Iraq, Father Jeffrey Whorton, CH (MAJ), USA, celebrated Mass for United States troops in the war-torn countrys oldest Christian monastery. St. Elijahs Monastery stood with dig- nified grace on a hillside over Mosul, across the Tigris River from the Old Testament site of Nineveh. Father Whorton, along with fellow military chaplains and their assistants, gave many tours of the fourteen-hundred-year-old monastery. The Associated Press (AP) recently reported that satellite images confirm destruction of St. Elijah's at the hands of ISIS ighters sometime between Aug. 27 and Sept. 28, 2014. As it turns out, Father Whorton, who serves on active duty with en- dorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), was the last priest ever to preside at the liturgy on the ancient altar of the monasterys sanctuary before its closure in the spring of 2010. It was a sacred place, Father Whorton says of the monas- tery, built in the late sixth century and named for an Assyrian Christian monk whose name it bore. In 1743, according to the AP, as many as 150 monks were martyred there on orders of a Persian general when they refused to convert to Islam. Cel- ebrating Mass on the sanctuarys old altar, Father Whorton says, was wonderful in a mystical and powerful way. The monastery, now in ruins, is still considered a holy site by Iraqs war-weary Christians, whose population has dwindled from 1.3 million to 300,000 since the 2003 U.S. invasion. In 2003, Iraqi troops occupied the monastery, tank-blast- ing a wall and filling the old cistern with garbage. Then, U.S. forces took over, leaving behind a little graffiti but the remains of the monastery otherwise intact. After learning that ISIS finally destroyed St. Elijahs Monastery, Father Whorton, now stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., told the United Kingdom of Great Britains national daily, The Guardian, Why we treat each other like this is beyond me. Elijah the prophet must be weeping. Father Jeffrey Whorton, celebrates Mass in the U.S. He was the last priest to celebrate Mass at Iraq's oldest Christian monastery before it was de- stroyed by ISIS fighters sometime in the fall of 2014.

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