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Pope Blesses Marian Icon


Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians

Pope Francis blesses the “Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians,” as Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a member of the Knights of Columbus, looks on.
(L'Osservatore Romano Photo)

During the Supreme Convention last August in Baltimore, the Knights of Columbus launched its 18th Marian Prayer Program--this year featuring an icon of “Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians,” created by Italian artist Fabrizio Diomedi.

Consistent with Knights’ tradition, each state deputy will host an icon and share it with the councils throughout their jurisdictions.  As the icons travel on their individual journeys, we have encouraged our Knights to track their experiences on social media using the hashtag #FollowingMary.

Last week, this campaign received a major boost when one of the icons made its way all the way to the Vatican with Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre who is a longtime member of the Knight of Columbus and a major supporter of the Order’s initiatives, especially support of persecuted Christians.  There, during a private audience with the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Pope Francis gave it his blessing.

The current Marian prayer program pays particular attention to the suffering of today’s Christians in the Middle East and features the icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians. Local jurisdictions will receive their own copies of the icon.

Created by Italian iconographer Fabrizio Diomedi (read an interview with him HERE), this icon depicts the Blessed Mother, with the Child Jesus over her heart, spreading her protective mantle around a representative gathering of recent Christian martyrs—men and women, young and old, from East and West; priests, religious and laypersons, including one of the six priest-members of the Knights of Columbus who were killed by the Mexican government in the first half of the 20th century. The four crosses represent an “ecumenism of blood” among martyrs of Roman and Eastern Catholicism, as well as those of Coptic, Armenian, Syriac and Orthodox traditions.

Since its inception in 1979, the Knights of Columbus’ prayer program has held more than 166,900 local council and parish prayer services with some 20 million participants. Featured images have included Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of Pochaiv, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of the New Advent, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Charity.