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NAZARETH – On Sunday, March 12, 2017, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop Emeritus of Cracow, accompanied by Bishop Kazimierz Gorny, Bishop Emeritus of Rzeszow, blessed and dedicated a mosaic of Our Lady of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.  The mosaic was done by the Mosaic  Center of Jericho, that also did the series of paintings of Mary all around the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Ninety pilgrims from Krakow were happy to be present for the ceremony,  which marked the long-time twinship between Nazareth and Kalwaria.  The Cardinal gifted the Basilica of the Annunciation with a relic of St. John Paul II, which the faithful venerated at the end of the candlelight procession in honor of Mary on Saturday evening.

From his childhood, Karol Wojtyla regularly came on pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Kalwaria on foot, 13 kilometers from Wadowice, his hometown.  It is possible that this ancient and popular shrine is behind St. John Paul II’s profound devotion to Mary.  It was possibly in this shrine and in front of this icon that St. John Paul II, inspired by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort’s Genuine Devotion to Mary, consecrated himself to the Virgin Mary taking on the motto “Totus tuus ego sum” and later incorporated in his episcopal and papal coat-of-arms.

In celebration, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel, welcomed the two Polish prelates, accompanied by Father Narcisio, ofm, vice-archivist of the Custody; Fr. Wladyslaw Wasko, ofm and the Polish Sisters serving at the Vicariate.  Bishop Marcuzzo presented Cardinal Dziwisz with the official album of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Holy Land.

The pilgrimage to the Holy Land represents for the faithful of Poland, an essential step in their life and journey of faith.  With the decline of European pilgrimages to the Holy Land in recent months, Polish pilgrims continued to come with great enthusiasm.

The shrine of Our Lady of Kalwaria is a symbol of this bond. According to tradition, it was considered impossible for pilgrims to come to the Holy Land in the 16th century.  The Polish faithful built the shrine on a hilltop with several small chapels and stations around it, which still exist to this time, as a reminder of the holy places.

To mark this close connection between Kalwaria and Nazareth, the Franciscans who are the guardians of the shrine, invited in 2000, then Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah to celebrate a Solemn Mass on the feast of the Assumption of Mary together with the  Polish Episcopal Conference.

Our correspondent in Nazareth.

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