Insurgents have seized control of Mosul, historically a Christian stronghold in Iraq, forcing out the Iraqi army and the police, The Tablet reports.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, has asked parliament to declare a state of emergency.
Up to 500,000 of the city's inhabitants have fled, including virtually all of the city's remaining Christian population after the attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who are also known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group).
'Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,' one Presbyterian pastor, Haitham Jazrawi, said.
Canon Andrew White, vicar of St George's Anglican church in Baghdad, wrote today: 'Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war.' ISIL 'does not even see Al Q'aeda as extreme enough,' he said, and has 'destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.'
He added: 'The Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage.'
A Dominican priest in Mosul wrote: 'What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic.' Fr Najeeb Michaeel said the ancient priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels yesterday morning, the US-based charity International Christian Concern reported. 'We are now surrounded and threatened with death ... pray for us.'
World Watch Monitor, which monitors Christian persecution, reported that up to a thousand Christian families have fled for safer areas.
The militia group now controls considerable territory in eastern Syria and western and central Iraq.
The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shamon Nona, and the other bishops of Mosul, launched an appeal to keep churches and mosques open to pray for peace, also inviting shopkeepers to ensure that people have access to food and basic foodstuffs. The west of the city, which is home to the city's Chaldean cathedral, is now held by the insurgents.
The new plight of Christians in Mosul (Vatican Insider)