Triple Message Linked to Return of Icon

Pope Hopes It Shows His Affection for Orthodox Church

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- When handing the icon of Kazan to a Moscow-bound Vatican delegation, John Paul II said he hopes it will convey three messages to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.



The first is that the Pope feels great affection for the patriarch and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The second is that he has great esteem for Russian spirituality. Third is his desire and intention is to continue on the path of unity between Catholics and Orthodox.

"May this ancient image of the Mother of the Lord express to His Holiness Alexy II and the venerated Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church the affection of the Successor of Peter for them and for all the faithful entrusted to them," the Pontiff said during a homily at the Liturgy of the Word celebrated in Paul VI Hall today.

"May it express his [the Pope's] esteem for the great spiritual tradition of which the holy Russian Church is custodian," he added.

"May it express the desire and firm intention of the Pope of Rome to progress together with them on the path of reciprocal knowledge and reconciliation, to hasten the day of that full unity of believers for which the Lord Jesus ardently prayed," the Holy Father said.

John Paul II also paid homage to the Christian witness that took place in Russia during the last millennium.

"Russia has been a Christian nation for so many centuries, it is Holy Rus," he said. "Even when adverse forces were ferociously against the Church and tried to remove from the life of men the holy name of God, that people remained profoundly Christian, witnessing in so many cases with blood their fidelity to the Gospel and to the values it inspires."

The Pope thanked Divine Providence "which allows me to send to the venerated patriarch of Moscow and All Russia the gift of this holy icon."