This is a photograph of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan that was kept by the Blue Army of Fatima in its Fatima headquarters (Domus Pacis) until it was entrusted to Pope John Paul 11. The Holy Father kept it in his private chapel and was aware of the Blue Army's intention that it should be returned to the Moscow Patriarchate following the conversion of Russia.
It was returned in 2004 in circumstances that some considered were not ideal. The Patriarch (the late Alexei) attempted to downplay the importance of the icon and it was clear that he was suspicious of the Pope's intentions. In fact John Paul 11 had hoped to visit Moscow personally. It must have been one of his personal regrets that this never happened.
The Icon of Kazan is said to have been discovered in 1579, in the Tartastan capital of Kazan, by a ten-year old girl called Matryona. It was said that the Holy Virgin appeared to the girl and instructed her to dig in the ashes of a burnt-out house. It was there that she discovered the original icon. The holy icon became famous and many miracles were connected with it, including the liberation of Moscow from the Poles in 1612.
We do not know which of the two authenticated versions is the original icon. Many believe that the Blue Army had the original and that there was a reluctance to acknowledge this on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate. The two icons were housed in the Cathedral in St. Petersburg and the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Moscow. Both icons disappeared in the 1900's.
The icon which eventually found its way to Fatima and then to Rome was rescued from the hands of a private collector by Fr. Karl Patzel, the founder of the Byzantine Catholic Church of Our Lady of Fatima in San Francisco. He raised more than a million dollars for the purchase of the icon. It was first venerated in his church before being entrusted to the Blue Army which later gave it to the Pope who kept it for ten years before returning it to the Russian Church.
This icon is very important to Russia. Our Lady of Kazan also has the title of "Protectoress of Holy Russia". On a visit to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1989, a Catholic layman, attorney Peter Anderson who knew the history of the Blue Army icon, was told by a Russian Orthodox deacon that the icon returned by the Pope was actually the original.