June 25, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - On June 14, a coalition of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox pro-life leaders from 18 countries launched the “From Ocean to Ocean” pro-life pilgrimage of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa from the Eastern Coast of Russia to Fatima, Portugal. The intent of the pilgrimage is to promote the defense of life across continents that have been decimated by widespread contraception and abortion.

The icon is being displayed in a specially designed trailer as it makes its way across 23 countries.

“There are many remarkable stories over the centuries of faithful Catholics marching with an icon of the Blessed Mother into situations where the odds seem insurmountable, but where the faithful emerge victorious,” said Father Peter West, vice president for missions of Human Life International, which is coordinating the pilgrimage. “That is the situation in which Europe finds itself today, amid a seemingly impenetrable culture of death marked by abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and other assaults on life. This return to a public witness of tradition and faith is desperately needed for those who have lost all hope and faith.”

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The pilgrimage began in Vladivostok, on the Pacific Coast of Russia, where several hundred of the faithful came to see and venerate the icon of the Virgin Mary. The icon was officially greeted in the Orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady of Care (Pokrovskij Sobor), where a special liturgy was celebrated in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa. It was then taken to the main cathedral of Saint Nicholas, and the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The pilgrimage route of Our Lady of Czestochowa passes through 23 countries: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. The planned route is about 11,200 miles (18 thousand kilometers). Organizers of the pilgrimage hope to be in Fatima by Christmas Day.

Pilgrimage coordinators Lech and Ewa Kowaleski report that plans to bring the icon to the United States, South America, Africa and Australia in 2013 are also being discussed.

“Also of great significance is the fact that this extraordinary project has brought together the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders,” said Ewa Kowaleska, director of HLI Poland. “Our Lady will therefore be hosted in both Catholic churches and Orthodox churches throughout the journey. We pray for her intercession in restoring a strong culture of life to nations who have lost all openness to life and who have almost forgotten the joys of the family.”

The copy of the Czestochowa icon of Our Lady, dedicated to pilgrimage through the world in defense of life, is a replica of the original, famed icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which has made the Jasna Gora monastery the most popular religious pilgrimage destination in Poland.