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Pope could meet with Russian Patriarch to return icon

Pope John Paul II might hold a long-anticipated meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II in August, according to Vatican sources.

The sources revealed that the Holy Father could meet with the Russian prelate on the return leg of his planned visit to Mongolia. Italian press reports yesterday suggest the Pope might also return the famous icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to Patriarch Alexei during such a meeting.

Vatican sources have indicated that the Pope might stop in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, on his return trip from Mongolia. Although the papal trip to Mongolia has not yet been officially announced, preparations are underway for such an event late in August.

The icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which is cherished within the Russian Orthodox Church, gained a reputation for miraculous powers in 1612, when it was brought to Moscow just before that city's liberation from Polish occupation. Early in the 20th century, however, take from its place in St. Petersburg and sold, passing from one owner to another until it was discovered in a small church in Fatima, Portugal. In 1991, when Pope John Paul visited Fatima, he took the con back to the Vatican. Orthodox officials have demanded the return of the icon, and the Pope has indicated that he is willing to make that gesture.

Vatican officials have confirmed that "the necessary contacts have been made" for the return of the icon. Observers suggest the return of the icon of Kazan could provide the Vatican with a strong inducement for the hitherto reluctant Patriarch Alexei to participate in a meeting with Pope John Paul.

Catholic World News

Pope confirms intention to return Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia (2/4/03)

15 Apr 2003