Today in Catholic History – The Finding of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan

On 8 July 1579, a little girl by the name of Matrona discovered an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the city of Kazan that would come to be known as Our Lady of Kazan or the Theotokos of Kazan [Казанская Богоматерь]

This icon is of the highest importance for Russian Orthodox faithful and many churches throughout Russia are dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan. Her feast day on 4 November is also the Russian Day of National Unity. The Russian Orthodox believe that prayers to the Blessed Mother through the icon have protected Russia against Polish invasion in 1612, Swedish invasion in 1709 and French invasion in 1812.

On 29 June 1904, the icon was stolen from the church in Kazan. The thieves who wanted to obtain the golden covering of the icon later claimed to have destroyed it. However, rumors continued that stated that the icon had survived.

One copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, through for some time it was believed that it might have been the original icon, was obtained by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima and kept at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. This copy, dated to around 1730, was given to Pope John Paul II in 1983 and kept in his study in the Vatican. While Pope John Paul II hoped to visit Russia and return this icon to the Russian Orthodox while he was there, the Russian Orthodox Church refused to grant him permission to visit that country.

Unable to visit Russia, Pope John Paul II chose to return this copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia on 27 August 2004. In returning the icon, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that Our Lady of Kazan might help bring about unity between the Orthodox and the Catholics.

Today, as I announced last Sunday, our traditional weekly meeting has a special profile. Indeed, here we are gathered in prayer around the venerable Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which is on the point of setting out on the return journey to Russia, which it left one day long ago.

After passing through various countries and staying a long time at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, it providentially arrived at the Pope’s dwelling more than 10 years ago. Since then, it has found a home with me and has accompanied my daily service to the Church with its motherly gaze.

How often since that day have I called on the Mother of God of Kazan, asking her to protect and guide the Russian people who venerate her, and to hasten the moment when all the disciples of her Son, recognizing one another as brothers and sisters, will be able to fully restore the compromised unity.

More on the transfer of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan from Pope John Paul II to Russia


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