Iraqi priests have been celebrated Masses in churches liberated from ISIS.

Masses were held in the towns of Bashiqa, Qaraqosh and Bartella for the first time since the invasion of Islamic State militants two years ago.

“We are so happy at the liberation,” said Fr Elkhoury Alfaran Elkhoury of Bashiqa.

“They want to give a message to the world, and that message is damage, their message is destruction, their message is death,” he said, pointing to the damage jihadis had inflicted on the church while occupying the area.

Catholics returning for a prayer service in their home town of Keramlis found everything in the church destroyed, including the statue of the Virgin Mary, which militants had decapitated before they left.

A confessional had been turned into a closet, a tomb had been desecrated, red prayer benches were burned, according to the Associated Press.

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