Our Lady of Kazan, Pray for us… All!

Two years ago our late Holy Father, John Paul II, gave the ancient icon of Our Lady of Kazan back to the Russian Orthodox Church. For centuries the icon was venerated by the Russian people, yet, not many know how precious it was to the Pope.
by Benjamin Cieply, LC | Source:
The icon of Our Lady of Kazan has deep roots in the history and religiosity of the Russian people and of the Russian Orthodox Church. The image has been venerated since the early 16th century, and over time became a sort of reference point for the faithful, especially in times of persecution and tragedy in Russia. For generations, this icon has been similar to what Our Lady of Guadalupe is for Mexico, or Our Lady of Czestochowa for Poland.

More than 80 years ago, however, when the “dark night of atheism enveloped the land,” the icon disappeared.

Years later it reappeared in the United States and was put on display at the World Expo of 1964. When the Iron Curtain prevented free movement from Russia to the West, Our Lady of Kazan served as a sort of spiritual ambassador.

In a message to the Patriarch of Moscow, John Paul II wrote in 2004: “During the long years of her pilgrimage the Mother of God in her sacred icon has gathered about her the Orthodox faithful and their Catholic brethren from other parts of the world.”

The devotion spread among Roman Catholics so that, “despite the division which sadly still persists between Christians this sacred Icon appears as a symbol of the unity of the followers of the Only-begotten Son of God, the One to whom she herself leads us.”

From 1993 until 2004 the sacred image was in the custody of the Vatican, and more particularly of John Paul II. In fact, the icon was kept in a privileged place within the papal apartments.

The Holy Father himself admits that he often prayed before the icon, “asking that the day may come when we will all be united and able to proclaim to the world, with one voice and in visible communion, the salvation of our one Lord.”

Undoubtedly, the Holy Father’s devotion to the icon of Kazan won for him the necessary graces to become an ecumenical giant. His effort towards unity brought down walls and began to build bridges; one bridge left to be built however, is that between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.

To his last days, John Paul II’s greatest desire was to see Orthodox and Catholics reunited in the bark of Peter. Now that Our Lady of Kazan is back in her native land, may her intercession bring forth the dying wish of John Paul II “the Great.”

-Information taken from the Vatican website, www.vatican.va.

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