Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.

Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream of a unified Christianity. His love for Orthodoxy has driven him to this personal mission to share the news of East with the world through his email list. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is proud to share his efforts and his insights with you.

On July 21, the consecration of the beautiful cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan, Russia will be performed by Patriarch Kirill.  The new cathedral is located over the exact spot where 10-year-old Matrona unearthed the original Kazan icon in 1579.  The Mother of God had earlier told Matrona in visions exactly where to dig.  Immediately after the discovery of the icon, it was credited with many miracles.  The icon became perhaps the most famous image of the Mother of God in Russia.  Copies of it are found in almost every Russian Orthodox church.  Kazan became a major pilgrim destination.  On the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar, the feast day of the discovery of the icon is July 21 (new calendar).

In June 1904, tragedy struck.  The original icon was stolen from the cathedral of the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan for the jewels overlaying the image.  According to witnesses, the thieves burnt the original wooden icon in a stove to destroy the evidence.  In any event, the original icon has never reappeared to this day.  In 1932, the communist authorities blew up the large cathedral at the Monastery which had housed the original icon.  A tobacco factory was later constructed in its place over the spot of the discovery of the original icon.

In 1993 Pope John Paul II was given a magnificent copy of the Kazan icon by the Catholic lay organization “Blue Army” (now called the International Apostolate of Fatima).  The icon had been purchased for a very large sum by the Blue Army in 1970 and placed in its Byzantine chapel at Fatima, Portugal, where it remained for 23 years.  The icon had somehow been brought earlier from the Soviet Union.  The copy of the icon was very old and had many valuable jewels.  Experts have concluded that it must have been a highly venerated icon in Russia before it appeared in the West.  Pope John Paul II became very devoted to this icon which was kept in his personal chapel or by his work desk.

In 2000, the mayor of Kazan met with Pope John Paul II and requested that his icon be given to the Kazan, which was celebrating the millennium of its discover in 2005.  In 2004, Pope John Paul II made a gift of the icon to Patriarch Alexy, primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.  A high-level delegation from the Vatican, headed by Cardinal Kasper, brought the icon to Moscow, and the icon was formally given to the Patriarch in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin on the feast day of the Assumption (under the Julian calendar – August 28, 2004).  On July 21, 2005, Patriarch Alexy presented the icon to Kazan on the occasion of the celebration of the City’s millennium.

After the icon was received by Kazan, it was placed for veneration in the Orthodox Exaltation of the Cross Church, the one major structure on the Mother of God Monastery grounds which had not been destroyed by the communists.  The icon has remained in this church for the last 16 years.  It has been visited by many famous people including President Putin.  Most importantly, the icon has gained a reputation from the local Orthodox believers and from the monks at the Monastery as being in fact a miracle-working icon.  Although the icon was originally given the name “Vatican icon,” it is now referred to as the “miraculous” icon.

In 2015, the Republic of Tatarstan, of which Kazan is the capital, decided to undertake the rebuilding of the cathedral which had been blown up by the communists in 1932.  If was a major effort to build the new cathedral on the foundations of the old cathedral and to replicate to the extent possible all of the design, details, and art work of the destroyed cathedral.  On July 21, 2016, Patriarch Kirill came to Kazan and laid the cornerstone of the new cathedral.

In an amazingly short period of five years, all of the work has now been completed.  It is a stunningly beautiful temple.  The consecration will now take place on Wednesday morning.  The Kazan icon, the gift from Pope John Paul II, will be brought by a large procession from the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin beginning at 8 a.m. to the new cathedral.  The icon will then be placed in a special glass case built into the iconostasis of the right altar.  That will be the permanent home for the icon, which will act as the replacement for the original icon stolen and presumably destroyed in 1904.  At 10:00 a.m., the consecration of the new cathedral by Patriarch Kirill will begin.

THE PROCESSION AND THE CONSECRATION CAN BE VIEWED LIVE ON YOUTUBE AT    Kazan is not on daylight savings time.  For middle Europe, the procession will begin at 7 a.m. and the consecration will begin at 9 a.m.

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA