Pope Francis blessed the painting of Our Lady of Lidice
“I cordially greet the faithful from the Czech Republic, especially the participants of the national pilgrimage led by the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the destruction of Lidice by the Nazi regime,” the Pope said during the general audience of Wednesday, May 31. “Dear friends, flee with hope to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin that you venerate in the painting of Our Lady of Lidice. May she help you to be courageous witnesses of the resurrection of Christ even in the hard moments or trials. I impart my blessing to you all!”
Pope Francis then blessed the painting of Our Lady and met Veronika Rýmonová, a survival of the tragedy. “(The meeting with the Pope) was a very powerful experience and I wish it to everyone,” said the woman who was baptized as an infant by the Lidice parish priests, Father Josef Štemberka, who chose to stay with the citizens of Lidice and was killed together with them in 1942. “I esteem him as a man who didn’t think about the possibility of leaving Lidice; only a few people can do such a thing,” said the surviving woman.
The painting by Zdirad Čech represents Our Lady holding an empty cloth instead of Jesus, who was, as the artist says, also “killed” in Lidice. “There were 173 men shot dead, but it is usually not mentioned that the Nazis when plundering the church, trampled on the Body of Christ and thus repeated what happened in Golgotha. This was the 174th killing,” Zdirad Čech explained.
The blessing of the piece of art and the meeting with survival Rýmonová were parts of the commemoration of the massacre’s 75th anniversary in Rome. The program includes also the mass in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, celebrated on Wednesday by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for children – victims of war, and a conference on the same topic to be held in the seat of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on June 1, the International Children’s Day.
The conference will be opened with the personal memories of the “children of Lidice”, delivering their speeches will be representatives of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, of UNICEF, of EU, and of the Council of Europe. “Seventy-five years have passed since the Lidice massacre and look how many children victims are there in our times. Let’s recall Manchester, killings of the Coptic children in Egypt and others. Children victims are killed every day. The massacre of Lidice is thus a certain reminder,” said Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague. “The Pope’s reminder is a reminder directed to our times when we witness killings of children, their abuse by soldiers as well as all kinds of exploitation,” he added.
The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the tragedy in Lidice will be closed in Rome on Thursday by a mass in the church of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter, the titular basilica of Cardinal Duka, where the painting of Our Lady of Lidice is to be placed permanently. The commemoration is organized by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Vatican together with the Holy See, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Delegation of the EU to the Holy See.