Catholic / Orthodox Relations
Kazan Icon's Return Doesn't Justify Papal Visit, Moscow Patriarchate Says, 5/20/2003
Moscow - The Patriarchate of Moscow said that the return of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan is not a reason for a visit by John Paul II, and criticized the creation of two new dioceses in Kazakhstan.
A statement published on Monday by the communications service of the
Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, says:
"The attempts to link the returning of this icon with the question of a
visit of the Pope of Rome to Russia are astonishing, the more so that the
Vatican has not negotiated such a visit with the Russian Orthodox Church."

Vatican spokesman Joaqumn Navarro-Valls confirmed on May 4 in Madrid, that
the Vatican was studying the possibility of a papal stopover in Kazan, in
the Russian Federation, during John Paul II's trip to Mongolia at the end of

On that occasion, the Pope would like to return to Patriarch Alexy II of
Moscow the icon given to him for this purpose by a Catholic institution.

The patriarchate states that "on the basis of the analysis undertaken on
April 1, 2003, in Rome by a group of authoritative scientists delegated by
the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and the Vatican, it has become
known that the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan kept in the apartments of the Pope
of Rome is an 18th century copy made by a provincial icon-painter on the
pattern characteristic of the late 17th-early 18th century."

"In its size and character, this icon cannot be identified with either the
historical miracle-working icon that appeared in 1579 in Kazan or other
known and venerated icons."

"The statement that this icon is 'authentic' is justified only in the sense
that it is not a modern forgery and fully corresponds to the time to which
it has been dated by specialists."

The patriarchate repeats that the "possibility for a meeting between His
Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope of Rome"
depends entirely on surmounting "the problems standing between the two
Churches, such as the Catholic proselytism among people who belong to
Orthodoxy by baptism and cultural tradition and the strained circumstances
in which the faithful of the canonical Orthodox Church live in western

"The recent establishment of new Catholic dioceses in Kazakhstan shows that
the Vatican's policy is aimed at aggravating the existing problems," the
statement concludes.

In an interview on May 18, with the Italian newspaper "Avvenire," Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, explained that the two new
dioceses in the former Soviet Republic were created to respond to the
rebirth of the Catholic communities that, like the Orthodox, were severely
persecuted during decades of communism.

At the same time, the Italian cardinal revealed that before publishing this
decision, out of a sense of delicacy, the Patriarchate of Moscow was