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Pope sets date for return of icon to Russia

Pope John Paul plans to return a 16th century icon to Russia to try to help thaw frosty relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox church.

The Kazan Madonna, a Russian icon the Vatican has possessed since the early 20th century, will be handed over to the Moscow Patriarch Alexiy II in August.

"The Holy Father hopes this pilgrimage of the Kazan Madonna will contribute to the wished for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced on Saturday in the Alpine retreat where the Pope is on holiday.

The Holy Father has expressed his wish to visit Russia, and but only with the blessing of the Patriarch, which has not been forthcoming. The two churches split a millennium ago.

A Vatican delegation will return the icon to Russia on 28 August, a feast day of the Madonna in the Orthodox calendar. The icon was originally in the cathedral of Kazan, a city east of Moscow.

Pope to return icon to Russia (Reuters 11/7/04)

Vatican to Return Revered Icon to Russia (The Scotsman 11/7/04)
Pope Finishing New Book, Vatican Says (The Guardian/Associated Press 10/7/04)
Pope Urges Initiatives to Fund Development of Poor Nations (Zenit 9/7/04)
Vacationing John Paul II Makes an Outing (Zenit 9/7/04)
A book by Pope John Paul II "being edited," Polish Catholic news agency announces (Catholic News Agency 9/7/04)
Pope to hand icon back to Russia (BBC 10/7/04)
Papal letter to meeting on poverty and globalization (Vatican Information Service 9/7/04)
Moscow Patriarch says Pope needs a better excuse for visit (CathNews 22/5/03)
Pope confirms intention to return Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia (CathNews 2/4/03)

12 Jul 2004