Skip to comments.Letter #60: “We are brothers”… in humility (Francis gives Benedict Russian icon)
Posted on 03/23/2013 2:19:36 PM PDT by NYer
“We are brothers”… in humility
“We are brothers.”–Pope Francis to Emeritus Pope Benedict today at Castel Gandolfo
The Icon of Mary that Pope Francis Gave as a Gift to Emeritus Pope Benedict Today Was… a Russian Icon
The present and former Pope met today, in a moment without precedent. And the words which remain are the ones spoken by Pope Francis to Benedict: “We are brothers.”
As Nicole Winfield put it in her comprehensive Associated Press dispatch today: “The two men in white embraced and showed one another the deference owed a Pope in ways that surely turned Vatican protocol upside down: A reigning Pope telling a retired one, ‘We are brothers,’ and insisting that they pray side-by-side during a date to discuss the future of the Catholic Church.”
In the same report, she noted: “Francis also brought a gift for Benedict, an icon of the Madonna. ‘They told me it’s the Madonna of Humility,’ Francis told Benedict. ‘Let me say one thing: When they told me that, I immediately thought of you, at the many marvelous examples of humility and gentleness that you gave us during your pontificate.’ Benedict replied: ‘Grazie, grazie.’”
But who were the “they” who told Francis that the icon was the Madonna of Humility?
“They” were… the people who gave the icon to him. But who were those people?
Well… they were representatives of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who sent the icon to Pope Francis as a gift, and who handed it to Francis three days ago, on March 20.
How do I know this?
Because a few minutes ago I received an unexpected email from Metropolitan Hilarion, 46, an old friend who is also the “Foreign Minister” (the term isn’t quite accurate, but it suggests the importance of his work and position) of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate, so, the right-hand of Patriarch Kirill. He wrote:
“Pope Francis presented to Pope Emeritus Benedict the icon which had been presented to Pope Francis by Metropolitan Hilarion on behalf of Patriarch Kirill [the head of the Russian Orthodox Church] after the private audience [with the new Pope] on 20 March. Отправлено с iPhone [Sent from iPhone]“
So the icon was the Russian icon Hilarion gave to Francis three days ago!
I wrote back: “Amazing. Are you pleased, or upset?”
I added: “It is reported here: ‘They spent 45 minutes talking alone. Pope Francis gave Pope Benedict an icon of Our Lady of Humility, saying that when he received it, he immediately thought of giving it to Pope Benedict.’”
Hilarion wrote back: “Very pleased and touched.”
Now, what does all this mean?
Well, it means that at the moment Pope Francis and Pope Benedict first met, at the first meeting ever of the “two Popes” of the Roman Catholic Church, there was a “Russian connection” and an “Orthodox connection” which was present, which was between them, joining them: an image of the Virgin Mary, the Madonna of Humility, brought from Russia and given to Pope Francis in Rome on March 20, an image which immediately struck Pope Francis when he received it as reminding him of Benedict, an image which he decided to bring with him today, to give to Emeritus Pope Benedict, on the occasion of the unprecedented, historic occasion, of their first meeting.
Others may find further elements in this bit of news to reflect upon. To me, it suggests that Mary, Mother of the Church, is watching over the Church, in these difficult and dangerous times, and acting as a mother even to these two men, Benedict and Francis, bringing them together.
I sense in this a mysterious design, yes, a mystical design, something transcending our ordinary understanding of cause and effect, a design, as I see it, for Christians, for the Christian Church, to return to greater communion, greater unity, East and West, Greek and Latin, Orthodox and Catholic — with one of the great “hinge points” being… Russia.
The Madonna of Humility… it is precisely humility that brings these two Popes together. One very simple and humble, the other very simple and humble. One dedicated to a life of thought, to theology, the other dedicated to a life of action, to pastoral care of the poor.
And the way to proceed forward toward greater Christian unity is this same way, the way of Mary, the way of humility.
In the homily at the Mass on March 19 for his installation, Pope Francis concluded with these words, asking specifically for Mary’s intercession:
“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
“I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.“
Beautiful gesture, ping!
According to this explanation, the icon first appeared in AD 1420 in Pskov, or rather it appeared miraculously on the Kamenny lake near Pskov, and it was transferred to Pskov the same year.
One copy of it was preserved in Kiev through the Stalin's iconoclasm because a former nun rescued it in her home. It is now back in Kiev's Vvedensky (of the Presentation) Church.
All the copies of it are late, my eye measure gives them 19c. provenance. Here are a couple (I am not saying either of this is the copy presented to the popes).
By the way, the icon seen on the photograph of the two popes praying to, is not it. The icon in question is seen on the first and the last photo, still in the presentation box.
Robert Moynihan, PhD.’s letters are absolute must reading at present and going into the future. Ignore the left wing and right wing critics of PFI and pay attention to Moynihan.
Absolutely beautiful. Mary has a more authentic, middle eastern appearance. Thank you for posting them.
Whoever wrote this article needs to read up on history. Pope Boniface VIII met face to face with his predecessor Pope Celestine V after the latter resigned (although on considerably less friendly terms than Pope Francis had with Pope Benedict... Pope Boniface VIII ordered his predecessor to be placed under house arrest in the Vatican)
Again, the "unprecedented" story was not Pope Benedict XVI resigning, it's Pope Benedict XVI resigning due to advanced age. Apparently no one in the secular media is able to open a history book and realize that. ::sigh::
Saving this thread. Thank you so much, NYer.
I googled up this story:
I had to show this picture of the two Popes praying together at the chapel at Castel Gandolfo with the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa there front and center. Many will think Pope John Paul II placed it there, but that would not be correct. It was placed there by Pope Pius XI in the 1920's. The reason is the following. Before becoming Pope, Archbishop Achille Ratti was named Nuncio to the newly independent Poland in 1918. Poland was invaded by Soviet Russia in 1920 and everything seemed lost. It appeared the numerically superior Soviets would overrun Poland and invade Germany (then in chaos with multiple Communist insurrections) and by the beginning of August 1920 they were at the gates of Warsaw. The entire diplomatic corps fled along with the Polish civilian government. The only one who stayed was Achille Ratti who prayed along with Polish bishops in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Then, on the eve of the feast of the Assumption (to this day August 15 is also celebrated as the Polish Armed Forces Day) the Head of State of Poland and Commander-in-Chief Joseph Pilsudski launched a surprise attack against the Soviets. He himself was shocked how easily he was able to encircle the Soviets from the south while the northern front held off a Soviet attack. The Soviets fled in panic and some even saw a vision of a lady who was covering Warsaw with her cloak. The Poles called the battle the Miracle on the Vistula (the river that runs through Warsaw). The Soviets didn't stop until they almost reached Moscow. In honor of this, in gratefulness to Our Lady of Czestochowa, when Achille Ratti was elected Pope in 1922, he placed Her image in the chapel at Castel Gandolfo where it is to this day. God bless, Tom
And here is the prototype of the icon in Castle Gandolfo. I could not find the exact that icon, though.
Great account! My 1/4 Polish blood served me well. ;-)
Every time I see the Soviets cut into salad, my Russian heart rejoices as well. One day, Russia will get rid of them too.
I just wish they’d come out with a Region 1 DVD/Blu Ray.