21 July 2005 -- Russia's Orthodox leader Patriarch Aleksii today led celebrations marking the return of a religious icon that disappeared from a church in Kazan some 80 years ago.
The icon, depicting the Virgin Mary and known as "Our Lady of Kazan," was carried to the Church of the Annunciation in central Kazan. Around 5,000 people attended the celebrations.
Many faithful believe the relic, which dates from the 17th or 18th century, has miraculous powers.
The icon was taken out of Russia in the 1920s after the Bolshevik Revolution and was later acquired by the Vatican. It stood in the late pope John Paul II's private rooms for more than a decade.
Last year, John Paul returned the icon to the Russian church as a gesture meant to ease strained Catholic-Orthodox relations.