John Paul II Composes a Farewell Prayer for Icon

Sees in It an Image of East-West Unity

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2004 ( John Paul II composed a farewell prayer to the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, entrusting to the Blessed Virgin the recovery of the lost unity among Christians.

“Mother of the Orthodox people, the presence in Rome of your holy image of Kazan, speaks to us of a profound unity between East and West, which endures in time despite the historical divisions and the errors of men,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father wrote this prayer especially for today’s ceremony before 7,000 people in Paul VI Hall, where he entrusted the icon to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The cardinal is responsible for delivering the icon to Russian Patriarch Alexy II this Saturday in Moscow.

The prayer was sung in Russian by the choir of the Pontifical Russian College of Rome, the Russicum. The faithful were able to read it in Russian and Italian, using a guide published by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The “Bishop of Rome unites himself spiritually to his brother in the episcopal ministry, who presides as patriarch over the Russian Orthodox Church,” the prayer said.

It asked Mary to intercede so as “to hasten the time of full unity between the East and West, of full communion among all Christians.”

When greeting pilgrims in several languages, John Paul II said to the Poles that “this gift we make on the vigil of the solemnity of the Most Holy Virgin of Czestochowa has a special eloquence: It becomes a sign of the faith and piety that unite the traditions of East and West in love of the ‘Theotokos,'” the Mother of God.

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