The child's mother refused to let her go out, arguing that it was too dangerous. However, after having the dream for two more consecutive nights in a row, Our Lady said she would become upset if the girl didn't go.
So the next morning, the child's mother accompanied her to the church, where they saw a golden light amid the ashes. When they brushed the soot away, they saw that they were holding an image of Mary and the Child Jesus, and that it was glowing.
As they were holding it, a blind man in the area was said to have regained his sight, and the image became known as a miraculous icon. Word of the event spread and eventually reached the tsar in Moscow, who asked that the image be brought to the capital.
"Over the centuries the icon became known as the 'protection of Russia,'" Moynihan said, explaining that whenever Russia would engage in war, the tsar would call the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the patriarch would then lift the icon in front of the army and pray for Russia's protection, and although the country suffered great loss, "Russia was never conquered."
The icon was eventually placed in Moscow's Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, which sat directly across the street from the Kremlin.
However, in 1918, after the Bolsheviks came to power, the icon was taken from the church and sold to an art dealer in Warsaw, and it end up in the possession of an English nobleman who hung the image on the wall of his house in London.
Years later, in 1950, a Russian Orthodox bishop happened to be visiting the house and recognized the image, telling the owner he was in possession of "the protection of Russia."
After his death, the icon was purchased from the estate by the Blue Army of Fatima – an international organization dedicated to spreading Our Lady of Fatima's message – in the 1960s, and in the 1970s a chapel was built to house the icon at the Fatima shrine in Portugal.
So the Kazan image ironically ended up in the same place from which Our Lady in 1917 asked the three shepherd children to pray for Russia, asked that it be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, and predicted that it would be converted.
When St. John Paul II was elected Bishop of Rome in 1978, he had wanted to return the icon to Russia, but it was impossible while the country was under communist rule.
So when the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, within a few days the Polish Pope called the Vatican's ambassador to Portugal and asked that the Kazan icon be brought to him in Rome, so that he could carry it back to Russia.
(Story continues below)
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Moynihan, who had already developed a strong interest in Russia at that point, began to become curious about the image as plans for a papal trip to Russia fell through.
At one point he asked St. John Paul's secretary if the story about Our Lady of Kazan was true, and in response was told that it was in fact true, and he was invited to come see the image for himself in his apartment.
"I stood in front of the icon on the mantle piece in the Pope's study, and I felt a sense of vertigo," Moynihan said, "because looking at the eyes of the icon, I felt that Mary was both tender and severe, and was both present and distant, and was both in time and out of time."
However, the Russian Orthodox Church did not want to icon to be returned during a papal visit for fear that it would seem like a triumphant return for the Catholic Church, and not for the Orthodox.
In the end, the icon was handed over in 2004, by Cardinal Walter Kasper, then the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then the Archbishop of Washington, who traveled to Moscow and placed it in the hands of Patriarch Alexey II.
Moynihan reflected on the icon's importance for the Russian people.