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MOTHER OF GOD "MARIAPOCH"




In the middle of the XVII century many Ruthenian families, looking for better conditions of livelihood, moved from their Carpathian land to the north-eastern plains of Hungary, which was then devastated and abandoned by the Turks. Thus the Ruthenians settled down and established several villages in the so-called Szabolcs county. Professing the Greek-Catholic faith, they immediately organized their own parishes, which until 1912 belonged to Mukachevo eparchy.

One of those villages was Povch, where about 160 Ruthenian families settled down and built for themselves a typical wooden church in 1676. Their pastor was Father Daniel Pap who, as the registers show, came down with his people and served them with love and dedication. When the church was ready he invited his younger brother, Stephen, who was a popular painter of icons, to paint the iconostasis for the new church. The Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God was commissioned by the head of the village, a certain Basil Chyhrij. Since Chyhrij refused to pay the six florins for the icon, it was bought by another parishioner L. Hurta, who then donated the Icon to the church "for the remission of his sins."

On Sunday, November 4, 1696, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of Father Pap, the faithful noticed that the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos on the iconostasis was shedding tears. Among the general commotion the the sexton timidly approached the altar and whispered into the priestís ear: "The Blessed Mother on the Icon is weeping!" Father Pap finished the Liturgy and then came out to see what had happened. Standing in front of the Icon, he also noticed that the Blessed Mother was shedding tears. So, he took the chalice cloth and thoroughly wiped the face of the Most Holy Mother of God, but in a short while tears appeared again.

As days passed by, the weeping of the Blessed Mother continued. The news about the miracle spread rapidly. The curious people of all walks of life came from near and far, and many of them indeed witnessed the miracle, since the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God shed tears, at various intervals, until December 8, 1696, when the shedding finally stopped.

The Roman-Catholic bishop of Eger, George Fenessy (1687-1699), being informed about the miracle, sent a Special Commission to Povch on December 26th, headed by Canon Joseph Chetge, in order to investigate the miracle. The Commission heard 36 witnesses who unanimously testified under oath about the miraculous shedding of tears "in the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic church of Povch," as marked in the Records of the Commission. These Records are still preserved at the University Library in Budapest, as part of the so-called Hevenessy Collection ( vol. XI, p. 401-417 ).

The Records show that the first witness was Rev. Daniel Pap, age 60, pastor of the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic church in Povch. According to pastorís testimony the icon began weeping on November 4, 1696, and continued to shed tears for the two weeks. Then, after some pause it began weeping again for an additional two weeks, stopping completely on December 6, 1696. The Icon shed tears even in the presence of numerous visitors, especially the officers of the Austrian army, who were continuing their campaign against the Turks, who were decisively defeated at Vienna in 1683.

The main witness was General Corbelli, in whose own hands the Icon shed tears. All the witnesses, mostly Roman Catholics and Prostestants, admitted that the miracle could not be explained in a natural way and had to be occasioned by supernatural intervention. It was confirmed by the sick little girl who touched the weeping Icon and was instantly cured. General Corbelli immediately notified Emperor Leopold I (1657-1705) about the miraculous weeping of the Icon in Povch and received orders that the Icon without any delay be brought to Vienna. Thus, during the summer of 1697, the Icon, escorted by a military guard, was solemnly transferred to Vienna. In Vienna, it was carried from one church to another where it remained exposed for a week of public veneration. Finally on Demeber 1, 1697, in the presence of the Imperial Family and numerous dignitaries, the Miraculous Icon was solemnly enthroned on the main altar of St. Stephenís Cathedral.

During the World War II, St. Stephenís Cathedral in Vienna wa very badly damaged but the miraculous icon remained untouched. During the reconstruction of the cathedral Cardinal Francis Konig ordered a special chapel to be built on the right side of the entrance for the Miraculous Icon of Povch, where it is still venerated by the Austrian people, ascribing to it the victory of Prince Eugene of Savoy over the Turks at Zenta, near Belgrade (presently in Yugoslavia) in September, 1697.

Toward the end of 1694, the faithful of Povch insisted that their miraculous icon of the Weeping Holy Mother of God be returned to them. To appease them, Bishop Stephen Telekessy of Eger ordered an exact copy of the miraculous Icon to be made and sent it to Povch. This copy was then placed on the iconostas, replacing the original. And the Blessed Mother, to prove her special concern for our poor Ruthenian people, again shed tears on the copy of the original Icon, between August 1-5, 1715. At that time there was already a new pastor in Povch, Father Michael Pap, 27 years old, probably the son of the former pastor. Thursday, August 1, 1715, as Father Pap was making preparations (Proskomedia) for the Holy Liturgy, cantor John Molnar noticed the tears in the eyes of the Blessed Mother on the Icon. He did not say anything, since he thought that the pastor had just blessed some religious articles and also sprinkled the Icon with the holy water. After the Liturgy, informed about the tears, the pastor without saying a word, wiped the Icon dry, and left.

After breakfast having some kind of premonition, Father Pap returned to the church and noticed that the Blessed Mother was indeed shedding a flood of tears. He immediately summoned the cantor, the cantorís father-in-law, Elias Zhishko, and a parishioner Basil Lakatosh. That morning they all witnessed the miraculous shedding of tears by the Blessed Mother. Father Pap then notified Episcopal Vicar, Rev. George Bizancij in Nagy Kallo (at that time there was no bishop in Mukachevo), who hurried to Povch and personally witnessed the miracle, as did many soldiers, that stayed at that time in Povch.

The next day, Friday, August 2, during the morning services, the pastor and the cantor again noticed tears in the eyes of the Blessed Mother. So they once more invited people to witness the miracle. And later they all confirmed the miracle by their oath. Among them was the district judge, Nicholas Nyaradi, who was a Protestant.

On the following Saturday and Sunday there was no shedding of tears recorded, but the people were still able to see some wet traces on the Face of the Blessed Mother. On Monday August 5, the neighboring Greek-Catholic priest, Father Theodore Pap, came to celebrate the Akathistos before the miraculous Icon. He also noticed the tears in the eyes of the Mother of God and immediately notified the pastor. They again invited various people of the town to witness the miraculous shedding of tears.

Vicar Bizancij notified the Roman Catholic bishop of Eger, Count Gabriel Erdody (1715-1744), about the miracle. The bishop immediately sent a Commission to Povch, which was led by his Auxiliary Bishop John Kish. The investigation lasted almost two weeks. On September 19, 1715, Bishop Erdody notified Vicar George Bizancij that the weeping of the Icon was found to be miraculous and, consequently, it could be publicly venerated in the church. Thus Povch became a famous pilgrimage center of the eparchy of Mukachevo.

The following year Vicar George Bizancij was named the bishop of Mukachevo (1716-1733). Being an eyewitness of the miracle and noting that large crowds of pilgrims were coming to Povch, he decided to build a stately church, which he started in 1731. Because of the lack of sufficient funds, construction was progressing very slowly, until a rich land-owner, Count Francis Karolyi, to whom the entire township of Povch belonged, took it under his patronage. Thus, by 1756, the present Marian Shrine in Povch was finished and dedicated by bishop Michael M. Olshavskyj, OSBM. (1743-1767), under the patronage of bishopís namesake, St. Michael the Archangel.

The Basilian Fathers from Mukachevo were then summoned to take care of the shrine. Count Karolyi built a large monastery for them which he also generously endowed with some lands. Since then the Basilian monks became the sole curators of the Marian Shrine in Povch, which since that time became known as - Mariapovch.

The Mother of God favored her shrine in Mariapovch with many miraculous healings, which were meticulously recorded by the Basilian Fathers in their Registers. The shrine, enriched by various Papal indulgenceses, constantly attracted more and more pilgrims, both Greek and Roman Catholics, coming from all parts of Hungary.

In 1905 the Blessed Mother wanted to once more confirm her motherly concern toward our poor people. So, between December 3-19, and again on December 30 and 31, her miraculous Icon once again shed tears for the third time. It was once more witnessed by a great number of the people, including many priests of both Rites. Informed about a new weeping of the Blessed Mother, Bishop Julius Firczak of Mukachevo ( 1891-1912) immediately sent a Special Commission to Mariapovch headed by our famous liturgist, Canon Alexander Mikita. The Commission started its work on January 2, 1906.

The numerous witnesses of both Rites, including even some Protestans, came forward to testify, but the Commission heard only 60 of them. The Icon first was taken out of the iconostasis and inspected by three experts, who unanimously agreed thet there was no fraud involved. Then 57 witnesses testified under oath that they saw with their own eyes the Icon of the Blessed Mother shed profuse tears.

The Episcopal Commission ended its investigation on January 12, 1906, when it issued an official statement, saying that the shedding of tears was miraculous and should be ascribed to divine intervention. The statement was read before the Icon by Canon A. Mikita during the Akathistos services, after which he delivered a moving sermon about the omnipotence of God and about the great love of the Blessed Mother toward our people.

No wonder our Ruthenian people responded with such a great love toward the Blessed Mother and came from all corners of the vast Mukachevo eparchy to venerate Her miraculous Icon in Mariapovch, through which the "Mother of the Ruthenian land" showed Her mother love and compassion toward our people in a visible manner.

Source : Shrine and Church of Mariapoch : Our Ancestors




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