By Michael H. Brown
Famous Icon Of The Holy Mother: Will It Be A Key In The Conversion Of Russia?
A miraculous icon of the Blessed Mother may pave the way for an historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Russia — a move that could have tremendous political as well as prophetic significance.
The situation has not yet reached the point of fruition, but there are rumblings that at some point in the near future the Pontiff — who seeks to heal the rift with the Russian Orthodox Church, a major stumbling block to unifying the original Christian Church — may in fact donate the object, known as the Mother of God of Kazan, back to Russia.
In 1579 most of Kazan — capital of a region known as Tatarstan’s — was ravaged by a devastating fire and one of those who had lost all his possessions was a member of the military corps initiated by Ivan the Terrible, Daniil Onuchin — whose nine-year-old daughter Matrona saw Our Lady in a dream. “She told the girl to go back to the ruins of her burnt down house and retrieve from the ashes an Our Lady’s icon which had been hidden there by secret followers of Orthodoxy during the Muslim rule,” according to Pravda.
The icon was indeed found and its retrieval was accompanied by many miracles, according to the Church’s records. The Vatican bought the icon after it was taken to the West in the wake of the Russian Revolution and the onset of Communism in 1917 and it now resides in the Pope’s apartment at the Vatican.
It was also in 1917 that three children saw the Blessed Mother at Fatima in Portugal, where they were given secrets revolving around Russia — which the Blessed Mother prophesied would be converted after its consecration to her Immaculate Heart, an act performed on March 25, 1984, by the the Pope and accepted by the Blessed Mother, according to the sole surviving Fatima seer, Lucia dos Santos. The nation has also been mentioned at Medjugorje, where the Virgin allegedly said in 1981 that “the Russian people will be the people who will glorify God the most.”
Will the icon — and a new connection with the Vatican — speed this conversion (already well under way in the Orthodox and underground Catholic sectors)? The reports come at a time when rumors have spread that John Paul might visit Russia and specifically Kazan during his planned trip to Mongoloia, although the Vatican says that no such trip is as yet scheduled. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told news services earlier this week that John Paul’s desire to donate the icon to the Russian people and the Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow were well-known but that “the appropriate occasion and the way of delivering it will be evaluated at the appropriate time.”
According to News Canada, “The Vatican said Monday it had not decided when to return an icon of the Virgin Mary to Russia, suggesting reports that Pope John Paul II may stop there in August to hand it over are premature. A radio station in John Paul’s native Poland said the pontiff would stop over in Kazan while en route to Mongolia. No Pope has ever visited Russia. The globe-trotting Pope long has wanted to visit Russia, but his plans so far have been thwarted by opposition from the Orthodox Church.”
Still, there is reason to believe that the Pope will make the dramatic gesture sometime in the next two years.
“The mayor of Kazan, who visited the Pope at the Vatican in 2000, said then that John Paul promised to return the icon, known as the Mother of God of Kazan, before Kazan celebrates the 1,000th anniversary of its founding in 2005,” reports the Canadian News service.
The Kazan icon of Our Lady has become one of the main objects of worship for Orthodox Christians. Copies of the icon are often placed above a newborn’s cradle or put into the hands of the deceased for the all-powerful protector’s support on a human’s way to the eternal abode. A copy of the icon was sent to the irregular army brought together by Minin and Pozharsky in the early XVII century. In 1612 the patriotically inspired irregulars liberated Moscow from its Polish occupiers.