Orthodox Christian

E W  SСедмиезерная икона Божией Матери (Петропавловский собор г. Казани)



An Italian noblewoman gives a fragment of Our Lady’s robe, and relics of six other saints,

to the Russian Orthodox Church in Kazan, Tartarstan, in the heart of Russia


Маркиза Иммаколата Соларо дель БоргоBy Dr. Robert Moynihan

KAZAN, Russia, May 13 - Are relations warming between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches after years of grave tensions?

Possibly, if the simple but extraordinary events which took place today in this city on the Volga River in the heart of Russia are any indication.

An aging Italian Roman Catholic noblewoman, her grey hair covered with a white veil, in a church packed with nearly 1,000 Russian Orthodox, today, in a simple but moving ceremony, handed over to the Russian Orthodox bishop of the city seven precious relics of saints -- including a tiny fragment of the robe of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Some women in attendance wept openly.

"I bring these relics as my gift to you, and to the people of Russia, as a sign of my respect and love for Russia and all her people," the Marquise Immacolata Solaro del Borgo, 77, a member of Rome's historically powerful Colonna family, said to Bishop Anastasi as she handed over the gift to him at 10 a.m. today in a packed church. "I hope the relics can enrich the new Marian sanctuary you are building around the icon of Our Lady of Kazan."

"We appreciate these gifts very much," Bishop Anastasi later told "Inside the Vatican." "We are grateful to Immacolata that she made this long and tiring journey to bring us these gifts personally. The city of Kazan will appreciate them forever."

Showing the seriousness with which today's gift of the relics was treated in Russia, the ceremony was broadcast live throughout the country on the main national television channel, NTV.

The ceremony took place in Kazan's Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Передача частицы ризы Пресвятой Богородицы Иммаколатой Соларо дель Борго архиепископу Анастасию.

In the ceremony, the Marquise Immacolata (a "marquise" ranks above a countess and below a duchess) gave Bishop Anastasi a fragment of the robe of Mary and relics of six other saints: St. Basil the Great, St. Blaise, St. Nicholas, St. Daria, St. Natalia and St. Pancratius.

The relics were contained in a single reliquary made by a Neapolitan jeweler in 17th century, a small silver box in the center of which was the fragment of Our Lady’s robe surrounded by the six saints’ relics, with their names inscribed there in Latin.

The reliquary came to Marquise Immacolata from Princess Giovanna Barberini, the widow of Prince Augusto Barberini, whose relatives included many cardinals and Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644).

The head of the internal affairs and tourism committee of the Kazan City Council, Vladimir Leonov, said that Marquisde Immacolata is an old friend of the Russian Orthodox Church.

She was prominent in Italy in the 1980s in arranging for medical treatment for the children from Chernobyl, Ukraine, and in the past has given a relic of St. Nicholas to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, and a relic of St. George to the Nikolo-Ugreshsky Monastery near Moscow.

Bishop Anastasi invited Marquise Immacolata to a lunch at his residence after the ceremony. She will remain in Kazan for two more days, visiting the holy sites of Russian Orthodoxy in Tatarstan.

There is one 300-member Roman Catholic parish in Kazan, a city of about 1.5 million on the Volga River which is about half Muslim and half Russian Orthodox -- and where Christians and Muslims both venerate the Virgin Mary in the icon of Kazan.

The head of the Catholic parish is Father Diogenes Urquiza, an Argentine priest who, assisted by three nuns, ministers to his small Kazan flock. Father Diogenes was present at this morning's ceremony. As a line of Russian Orthodox priests passed by him during the 2-hour thanksgiving liturgy which followed the handing over of the gift, many of the priests nodded to him in respectful recognition.

"The relations between the Catholics and the Orthodox in Kazan are cordial," Father Diogense told "Inside the Vatican." "We have respect for one another as Christians, and we have plans to work closely together on a number of social problems, like drug addiction and family problems, in years to come."

The city of Kazan has decided it will soon build a new pilgrimage center for the Kazan icon, which was given back to Russia in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.

The saints' relics handed over today will join the icon in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the center of the planned sanctuary.

The Kazan icon is considered one of the most precious of all the icons of Russia, because prayers in the presence of the icon in past centuries preceded important military victories. It is thus sometimes referred to here as "the protection of Russia."

The Kazan icon depicts a serene Madonna and Child. It was found under mysterious circumstances in Kazan in 1579, then lost to Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918.

It was re-discovered in the West in the 1940s, purchased by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima (a group interested in the message of Our Lady of Fatima, given to three shepherd children in Portugal in 1917 starting of May 13, 90 years ago today).

The icon was then held in Portugal for two decades, before being transferred to Pope John Paul's private apartment in 1993, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.

St. Peter's and Paul's is a massive and beautiful baroque cathedral. Built to commemorate Peter the Great's visit to Kazan, construction was finished in 1726. Inside it is equally sumptuous, featuring a towering iconostasis.


©Dr. Robert Moynihan, INSIDE THE VATICAN http://www.insidethevatican.com/latest-newsflash.htm

For more photos: http://www.kazan.eparhia.ru/news/?ID=7227


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