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Mary as a symbol of protection for Ukrainian Christians

As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, the icon of Mary the Mother of God is seen in the hands of Ukrainian Christians.

“In news photographs of recent gatherings and protests, images of a particular devotion stood out to those of us who work in the Marian Library: the Pokrova, or the Intercession of the Theotokos, a devotion marking Mary's protection and intercession,” said Sarah Cahalan, director of the University of Dayton’s Marian Library.

News coverage, such as this Feb. 24 story from The New York Times, "Ukrainians Abroad Talk of Shock and Disbelief as Homeland is Invaded," show Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine holding images of the icon. 

According to the Marian Library, a center for scholarship on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the icon is a devotion marking Mary’s protection and intercession based on a 10th century apparition.

“It is unsurprising that the Virgin Mary is a source of strength for Ukrainian Christians at this terrible time,” Cahalan said. “She is beloved both in Orthodox and Catholic Churches and she has been credited with numerous miracles during times of war.”

In the icon, Mary is surrounded by angels, holding a piece of fabric above people and offering protection — a prayer for many Ukrainians today.

“Mary knew suffering first-hand,” Cahalan said. “The Holy Family lived as refugees when they fled King Herod. Her only son, Jesus Christ, died in front of her. Because she knows suffering, she is always a resource for those seeking peace, protection and safety. The founders of the Society of Mary knew this and it is just as true today.”

The Marian Library is sharing images and artwork of this icon along with other resources during the season of Lent. View these images and access the resources on the University's website.


News and Communications Staff