During the days leading to Palm Sunday, the month-long Lenten visit of the wonderworking Kursk-root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” to the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe of the Russian Church Abroad concluded with visits to parishes in Amsterdam, Arnhem and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and the Memorial Church of St Job in Brussels. These visits capstone four weeks of travels, during which the sacred icon was brought to the faithful in London, Liverpool, Norwich, Cheltenham, St Leonards, Telford, Mettingham, Colchester and Oxford (in England); Cardiff and Llanelli (Wales); Montecarlo (Monaco); Cannes, Nice, Menton, Lyon, Meudon and Paris (France); Luxembourg; Sanremo and Florence (Italy); and the Resurrection Parish in Brussels (Belgium) (click the highlighted links, above, for photo-reports on the icon’s visits to each of these places).
During these final days of the icon’s visit to the Diocese during Great Lent, it was taken to multiple parishes in Benelux, including the Diocese’s Parish of St Mary of Egypt in Amsterdam and our Parish of the Protection of the Mother of God (Pokrov) in Arnhem, as well as the parish of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Diocese of the Hague and Netherlands in Rotterdam. For all these visits, the wonderworking icon was accompanied by Archpriest Stefan Weerts, who had already welcomed the icon into his own parish of the Resurrection of Christ in Brussels, and who thereupon bore the sacred obedience to take the sacred icon to the faithful in these other regions, ensuring that none were left without the consolation of the presence of the Theotokos in this, her most-revered image. Fr Stefan was met at the various parishes by their local clergy, including, in Rotterdam, by His Eminence Archbishop Elisey of the Hague and the Netherlands, who eagerly brought his own flock to pray also for the consolations of God’s mother.
Following its presence in the Arnhem temple during the Vigil for the eve of Lazarus Saturday, the icon was taken back to Brussels by Archdeacon Dometien (Redko), who has been the icon’s caretaker throughout its extensive travels in Europe, where it was venerated by large numbers of faithful who came for numerous services over the weekend, culminating in all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy of the Sunday of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem – the Sunday of Palms. Services in the presence of the icon were led in the historical “Memorial Church” of St Job by Archpriest Leonid Grilikhes and Priest Vassili Orekhoff, clerics of the parish, together with the Archdeacon, accompanied by beautiful singing from the parish’s large choir.
According to the custom of the Church Abroad, the Kursk-root icon, the chief sacred object of our Church, is always present in the Synodal Cathedral in New York during Holy Week and Pascha; therefore the sacred icon departed Western Europe following the services of Palm Sunday in Brussels, to return to its “home” in the Synodal headquarters. There it will be adored by the faithful who have missed its presence whilst the icon has been in Europe, and will be present again in the chief Cathedral of the Church Abroad for Paschal services led by the First Hierarch and the first Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese, His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, who is also the icon’s chief caretaker.
However, the Kursk-root icon will return to our Diocese after Pascha, to complete its journey through our territory, with planned visits to Zurich, Bern, Fribourg, Vevey, Geneva and Basel (please see the link for details of the post-paschal visits).