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    NEW YORK, March 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - In July after it is returned to Russia, residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg will be able to bow before one of the main Orthodox shrines, the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God.

    In late June, the icon will be taken from Chicago to Riga and then to Moscow, Father Alexander Abramov, a representative of the Moscow Patriarchy, told RIA Novosti on Monday. After Metropolitan Herman, the head of the American Orthodox Church, hands the icon to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II it will go to St. Petersburg and then to the Tikhvin monastery.

    "The icon will be displayed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow for some days and then in St. Petersburg's Cathedral. After that, it will be taken to the Tikhvin monastery (the Leningrad region) and remain there forever," Father Alexander said.

    According to him, the icon, which was taken out of the Soviet Union during World War II and has been kept in the United States for 55 years, will be brought back to Russia by a charter flight.

    After a liturgy conducted by Metropolitan Herman, the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God left the St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York and was taken to Chicago.

    The St. Nicholas Cathedral was open 24 hours a day for three days and 5,000-7,000 people viewed the icon.

    The Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God is one of the most worshipped Orthodox icons. According to the legend, St. Luke painted the icon while Our Lady was alive. Greek Empress Eudocia brought the prototype of the icon to Constantinople (the Byzantine Empire) from Jerusalem in the 5th century.

    A special temple was built for the icon. It disappeared 70 years before the Turks captured Constantinople. On July 9, 1383, the icon miraculously reappeared above Lake Ladoga. July 9 is the Day of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God and its return to Russia will coincide with this date.

    Many miracles and historic events are associated with the icon. Prince Vasily Ivanovich, the future father of Ivan the Terrible, prayed to the icon for a son in 1527. In 1613, the icon helped defenders of the Tikhvin monastery defeat Swedish attackers. In 1941, Stalin ordered a plane containing a copy of the icon to fly over Moscow.

    During the World War II, the Nazis occupied Tikhvin. Archbishop John Garklavs took it out of the country and gave it to his adopted son, an American Orthodox priest. The priest kept the icon in the United States for 55 years, but had always wanted to take it back to Russia.

    According to Archbishop Garklavs' will, the icon should be returned after the restoration of the Tikhvin monastery. After long negotiations led by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II in 2003-2004, the decision to return the icon to Russia was made. Before it is returned, the icon will not be displayed and it will be kept at Garklavs' house.

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