Pope John Paul II cancels visits to Mongolia and Kazan

Pope John Paul II has cancelled his visit to Mongolia. The Pontiff was going to visit Ulan Bator in connection with the opening of the first Catholic cathedral there, the Vatican press service said.

On his way to Mongolia the Pope wanted to stop in Kazan /the Volga region/ to hand over the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to the Tatar authorities, the Vatican sources said.

According to the legend, this icon helped to liberate Moscow from Polish invaders in 1612. At that time the wonderworking icon belonged to the Kazan home guard led by Russia's national heroes Minin and Pozharsky.

The icon was kept in the Kazan Cathedral built in honour of the victory over Poles in Moscow till 1710. Later Peter I ordered to take the icon to St. Petersburg. In the 1920s it was stolen and sold abroad with other church relics.

According to some data, an American collector sold the icon for 3 million dollars to one of Catholic organisations in 1970. In 1993 it was presented to John Paul II.

The Pontiff's wish to stop in Russia was caused by the hostility of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II, the Vatican press service noted.

The Pope explained his refusal to visit Mongolia saying, "Our Lord Does Not Want It", the press service added.

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