Envoys From Orthodox Lands Give Pope an Icon

Peoples of the East Are Praying for His Health, Says Diplomat

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ROME, MARCH 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Ambassadors from a half-dozen Orthodox-majority countries gave a hospitalized John Paul II the gift of an icon of Mary and expressed their hope for his rapid recovery.

Envoys from Cyprus, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia-Montenegro, Romania and Greece gave the gift today.

ZENIT learned from diplomatic sources that Georgios Poulides, Cypriot ambassador to the Holy See, proposed the initiative. The icon, in fact, comes from that Mediterranean island.

After leaving the Gemelli Polyclinic, Bulgarian Ambassador Vladimir Gradev recalled on Vatican Radio that some of the Pope’s first words after his tracheotomy were dedicated to the Virgin Mary: «Totus tuus» (All yours).

«Knowing his love of the Blessed Virgin, who is very venerated also in Orthodox countries, in the countries of Eastern Europe, we thought he would like this icon very much,» Gradev said. «He will be able to pray, meditate and know that the peoples of the East are with him and are praying for his health.»

«All our countries are concerned. We receive many messages from our governments every day, as well as from ordinary people, asking for news. They tell us that prayers are being offered in Orthodox Churches for the Holy Father’s health,» asserted Gradev.

Monsignor Tommaso Caputo, the Vatican’s head of protocol, received the diplomats on the Pope’s behalf.

The only ambassador of the Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe who was unable to attend was the Ukrainian, who was not notified in time, as he was not in Rome, diplomatic sources said.

Gradev said of the Pope: «We represent our people in this sincere wish for his complete recovery. The strength and courage shown by the Holy Father, also in this trial, are great examples for us all.»

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