Mosaic of Our Lady of Philermos unveiled in the Vatican Gardens
The image of Our Lady of Philermos, protector of the Order of Malta since the fourteenth century, was unveiled on 22 October in the Vatican Gardens with a ceremony.
Thanks to the initiative and generosity of the late Order of Malta’s ambassador to the Philippines, Odelia Gregorio Arroyo, an artistic mosaic depicting the icon of the Mother of God, long venerated by the members of the Order of Malta, has been created by Maestro Roberto Cassio.
Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant of the Grand Master, described his emotion in participating in this short but significant ceremony. “It fills my heart – and I’m sure that of all the Order’s members – to know that from today our venerable Blessed Virgin of Mount Philermos – patron of the Order of Malta since their time on Rhodes – will gaze benignly on the pilgrims who come to visit these places that represent the centre of Christendom”.
Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s Special Delegate to the Order of Malta, recalled the importance of the Mother of God for the Order’s members, and their devotion to Our Lady of Mount Philermos, whose original icon is conserved today in Cetinje in Montenegro. “A very ancient symbol of unbroken faith, peace and brotherhood, the Holy Virgin of Mount Philermos is now in a place close to Peter’s See and the heart of the Universal Church.”
The President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, conveyed a message of hope when he said that “this inauguration was to have taken place a year ago to commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Order of Malta, but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the fact of being here today goes to prove that the pandemic does not have the last word; it can win some battles, but not the final one.”
The Order of Malta’s ambassador to the Holy See, Antonio Zanardi Landi – after thanking the Governorate for its valued collaboration – said that “the icon of Our Lady of Philermos embraces some thousand years of European and Mediterranean history, of Greek, Byzantine, Christian and Catholic tradition. Over the centuries it has been venerated in Rhodes, Malta, Rome, Viterbo, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Belgrade. It has travelled and inspired confreres and others for almost a thousand years. It represents one of the symbols of Europe and today we are not only at the centre of the universal Church but also the centre of European culture and art; there is no great artist who has not left his mark in St Peter’s Basilica, in the papal apartments and in the Vatican Museums. I think it is very significant,” the ambassador continued, “that this image is here on the initiative of a Philippine ambassador, a country which 12 hours of flight separates us. This is an example of the universality and internationalization the Order of Malta has experienced over the last century’.
The mosaic was blessed by the Prelate of the Order of Malta, Msgr. Jean Laffitte. Numerous ambassadors accredited to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta attended the ceremony.