A Blessed Euro 2012

The European Football Championship “Euro 2012” kicks off on 8 June 2012 with Poland-Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw and finishes on 1 July at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Matches will be played in Poland and in Ukraine. Church circles as well have taken vivid interest in the event that will draw crowds of football fans to the cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine and Gdansk, Poznan, Warsaw en Wroclaw in Poland.
Not later than October 2009, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Mykola Simkaylo, Eparch of Kolomyja and Chernivtsi, and a priest of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate consecrated a very interesting Mary Pokrov icon. It was painted by an artist from Kolomyja, Vasily Stefurak. The Virgin Mary is extending her protective blessing to a football pitch with on the left hand side flag and coat of arms of Poland and on the right hand side flag and coat of arms of Ukraine. Thus, Mary not only blesses the tournament itself, but the Polish-Ukrainian collaboration as well. Meanwhile the child Jesus is blessing a football, as if the painter wanted to say that in the end it is He who determines the outcome of the tournament.
In an interview Bishop Mykola explained that the icon represents the particular view of the painter of Euro 2012 in the light of Christian faith, but “I did not find any heresy in this icon and that is why I came. Certainly, for us it is something new which causes attention, but generally speaking the project is a good one.” Ragulya Vasidze who was one of the initiators of this project stressed that “Visitors of Euro 2012 will not just remember our stadiums, but Ukrainian culture and national spirituality as well. This is exactly the purpose of this project.” (Read: Icon Devoted to Euro-2012 Blessed and Благословення ікони, присвяченої Євро-2012.)
Meanwhile, there was some protest. The rather tiny but vocal schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox  Greek Catholic Church called the icon “a profanation of the Mother of God and of the Child Jesus in her arms.” (Read: Letters from Ukraine 14/09.) (FH)