‘GATE OF MERCY’ FROM POLAND IN ROME ON THE OPENING OF THE HOLY YEAR OF MERCIFULNESS
FR. BOGDAN STEPAN
Pope Francis expressed his request so that the Ukrainian icon from Poland ‘Gate of Mercy’ would be brought to Vatican on the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercifulness
The history is as miraculous as the very icon. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFMCap, a preacher of the Papal House, received the copy of the icon at the end of the retreats for Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic bishops, which he had given in Ukraine. When the Holy Father Francis found out about the miraculous icon of Inowrocław from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, he expressed his wish for presence of the genuine Greek-Catholic ‘Gate of Mercy’ on the opening of the Holy Year of Mercifulness. On Friday 4 December 2015 at about 3 p.m. hierarchs of Warsaw archdiocese archbishop Jan Martyniak and archbishop Euegeniusz Popowicz were asked to bring the genuine icon to Rome till Monday 7 December. Priests of the Greek-Catholic Church accepted this news with joy but also with amazement. – Jesus is the ‘Gate of Mercifulness’ for all of us. He leads us to Father. Jesus arrived through a human, through Mother who opened herself to the Word – explains – archbishop Martyniak.
On Saturday 5 December, thanks to efforts of diplomats from Poland and Vatican, as well as employees of the Metropolitan Curia in Przemyśl, and also the Province of Podkarpacie of the Conservatory Office, it was possible to settle all formal permissions for exportation the valuable icon from the beginning of XVII century from Poland. The icon was transported from Przemyśl to Vatican on Sunday at 5 a.m.
Why did the Holy Father get interested just in the icon from Poland, from the Greek-Catholic church? Well, this icon is considered as miraculous and its history proves it. We know that originally it was in the orthodox church – under the invocation of Assumption in Jarosław. The icon was probably painted before the year 1640 and nearly at once it became famous for its graces. Historical sources inform that in 1772 it had already been decorated with votives . On 17 August 1747 it was taken to a new local orthodox church of Transfiguration of Jesus. When it was hung in a new orthodox church, a Book of Miracles was created in which cases of received graces were registered. Popularity of the icon reached Rome and next popes used to give privileges of indulgences to people praying to it (Klemens XII, Klemens XIV, Pius VI). The last one edited a papal bulla in which he acknowledged the icon as miraculous and gave a complete indulgence to believers visiting the orthodox church in Jarosław. Attempts for coronation of the miraculous icon according to the papal law was begun in the inter-war period. Its fervent pioneer was blessed Jozafat Kocyłowski (a Greek-Catholic bishop of Przemyśl, acknowledged by Holy Father John Paul II as a martyr). The Second World War, deportations of Ukrainian people, de-legalization of the Greek-Catholic Church in Poland made the initiative fail. In 1993 attempts were undertaken anew by the archbishop Jan Martyniak. He caused a situation in which pope John Paul II decided in 1996 about coronation of the painting and sanctified crowns. On behalf of pope John Paul II, the coronation will be done on 18 August 1996 on the market in Jarosław by cardinal Achille Silvestrini, the prefect of Congregation of Eastern Churches of that time. The ceremony gathered a few thousand believers with many Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic bishops.
Thanks to the will of Holy Father Francis, the icon ‘Gate of Mercy’ from Jarosław could shine with its wonderful brightness from Vatican on the day of opening the Holy Year of Mercy.