Icon of Kazan is Symbol of Christian Unity, Says Pope

Sends Message to Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan is a symbol of unity between East and West, said John Paul II in a message sent to the Orthodox patriarch.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered the Pope’s message and the icon to the Patriarch Alexy II on Saturday morning in the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Dormition.

“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, who have fervently prayed for the Church and the people whom she has protected down the centuries,” the Pope said in his message.

The Holy Father also said that “Divine Providence made it possible for the people and the Church in Russia to recover their freedom and for the wall separating Eastern Europe from Western Europe to fall.”

“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,” John Paul II noted.

This was the intention for which the Pope prayed before the icon, which he kept in his private apartment in the Vatican, “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 and his triumph over the evil and impious forces which seek to damage our faith and our witness of unity.”

United in prayer to the Russian Orthodox Church and all the people of the country when returning the icon, the Holy Father prayed “that this venerable image will lead us on the path of the Gospel in the footsteps of Christ, protecting the people to whom she now returns and the whole of humanity.”

“May the Holy Mother of God turn her gaze toward the men and women of our time,” he continued.

John Paul II concluded his prayer by asking the Virgin to “help believers not to stray from the path which God has set before them: the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the way, and the truth and the life, and a courageous testimony to their faith before society and before all the nations.”

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