Return of Icon of Kazan Encourages Reconciliation

Patriarch Alexy II Sends Letter of Gratitude to Pope

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MOSCOW, AUG. 31, 2004 ( The gesture of returning the Icon of the Mother of God to Russia is one that encourages reconciliation, said Patriarch Alexy II in a message of gratitude to John Paul II.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican delegation formed by the Holy Father for the purpose of returning the icon to Russia, fulfilled the Pope’s mandate on Saturday in a solemn liturgy held in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

«The transfer of this holy icon, brought over by your envoys, is seen by the Plentitude of the Russian Orthodox Church as both an act of the restoration of justice and an act of good will on the part of Your Holiness,» the Russian patriarch stated in his letter, published on Tuesday by the Vatican press office.

The image, considered among the most precious by the Russian Orthodox, was given to John Paul II in 1993. The Blue Army, a Catholic organization dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, had acquired the image from an auction and in turn gave it to the Holy Father.

«I believe that your decision to hand over the icon points to the sincere desire to overcome the difficulties existing in relations between our two Churches,» the patriarch acknowledged.

«May this event become our common contribution to the overcoming of negative consequences of the 20th century history, marked with persecution against the faith of Christ unprecedented in scale,» the patriarchal letter continued.

The love that both Catholics and Orthodox feel for the Mother of God «brings us back to the times of the early Church when there were no divisions between East and West so visible, regretfully, in our days,» the patriarch added.

«The Russian Orthodox Church, always, even in her most difficult moments in her relations with the Roman Catholic Church, has invariably stated her willingness to develop these relations in the spirit of sincere cooperation,» Alexy II wrote.

«We see in the transfer of the Kazan icon a step in the right direction in the belief that in the future everything that is possible will be done to settle certain problems standing between our Churches,» he continued.

The patriarch believes that the «preaching of Christian values to the secularized society will be successful only if all Christians fulfill the Savior’s commandment of love.»

«Openness in relations among Christians of various confessions presupposes respect for one another, knowledge of their common history, and sensitivity in carrying out any actions in territories where another Christian tradition has existed for centuries,» he said.

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