Vladivostok (AsiaNews) - A copy of the Mother of God Icon from Częstochowa (the famous 'Black Madonna') yesterday reached in Vladivostok, in Russia's Far East, where it will be honoured by hundreds of believers and prayers.
The icon, which is dear to both Catholics and Orthodox, arrived in a van that left Poland and crossed Kazakhstan and China until it stopped in this far-east corner of Siberia. From Russia's port city on the Pacific, the icon will travel to other Russian cities until 20 July.
Dubbed 'Ocean to Ocean,' the tour is designed to encourage prayers for the Mother of God in support of the family and life.
Ewa Kowalewska (Poland), of Human Life International, and Igor Beloborodov (Russia), head of Demographic Research Institute in Moscow (pictured, left), are the two pro-life campaigners behind the initiative.
From Vladivostok, the icon will travel through 20 countries before it reaches is destination in Fatima (Portugal). After its tour of Russia, it will be in Belarus (20-28 July), Latvia ( 28 July- 5 August), Lithuania (5-12 August), Poland (12-26 August), Czech Republic (26-31 August), Slovakia (31 August - 7 September), Hungary and Romania (7-16 September), Slovenia (16-20 September), Croatia (20-25 September), Italia (25-29 September), Austria (29 September - 14 October), Lichtenstein (14-15 October), Switzerland (15-24 October), Germania (24 October - 2 November), Belgium (2-5 November), Great Britain (5-16 November), Ireland (16-26 November), France (26 November - 10 December), and Spain (10 December -?).
Organisers want the campaign-cum-pilgrimage to show their support to countries like Hungary and Poland that have a pro-life legislation but are under political pressure from the European parliament and anti-family groups. Especially important for them is to encourage an attitude of respect towards human life and a rejection of abortion.
All European countries, Russia included, are marked by an aging population and have laws allowing abortion, which are among the factors behind the economic crisis.
In Russia, the issue of abortion has become over the years a major social problem. Organisers stress that Russia was the first nation in the world to legalise abortion; now they hope that the Russian people will be among the first to fight against this evil.
"There will be prayers before the miraculous icon requesting the Mother of God to strengthen family ties," said Archpriest Aleksandr Talko, from the local Eparchy, when the icon reached Vladivostok.