On May 22, 2016 in the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast an official inauguration of an International Center of Prayer for Peace took place. This spiritual project came into being in cooperation with Pallottine Fathers from Warsaw Province within the Work of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary, Queen of Peace” carried out by “Communita Regina della Pace” Association. The solemn inauguration of the Center was celebrated with the Holy Mass concluding the National Pilgrimage of Mercy in which participated more than 25,000 pilgrims. Following the Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in a solemn procession and placed in the Altar of Eucharistic Adoration called Donum Caritas et Pax (The Gift of Love and Peace) which was created especially for this purpose. The placement of the Host in the altar and the beginning of prayer for peace, conducted by His Excellency Bishop Marcellin Yao Kouadio, marked a symbolic illumination of the “Star” on the African continent.
Yamoussoukro (Ivory Coast)
The Basilica – a Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro – was built between 1985 and 1989. It was funded by the first President of independent Ivory Coast Republic, Mr. Felix Houphouet-Boigny, in thanksgiving for the gift of peace. Its foundation stone was blessed by St. John Paul II in 1985, during his second apostolic visit to this country. He also consecrated it in 1990 which was the purpose of the Holy Father’s third apostolic visit to Ivory Coast. On the same occasion the Sanctuary was honored with the title of Basilica Minor which conferred some special privileges on this place (e.g. possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence there). St. John Paul II consecrating the shrine said that he wished this place to become a center promoting justice and peace “on the continent so severely afflicted by divisions and terrors but at the same time, the continent animated with great hope”.
The Basilica in Yamoussoukro is the largest church in the world. It has an area of 30 000m2 (98,425 sq ft) and it is 158m high (518 ft). It can accommodate 18 000 people (7 000 seated). It is an outstanding example of Christian architecture in Africa, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The defining feature of the Basilica are its impressive stained glasses of 7,400m2 (24,280 sq ft), depicting Biblical scenes. Thanks to them, many pilgrims come to know Jesus Christ for the first time.
In his homily delivered during the Holy Mass of Basilica’s Consecration, St. John Paul II reminded that the first missionaries who came to this land consecrated the nascent Church to the Virgin Mary. And one can truly see how Our Lady takes care of her children in Ivory Coast. The Sanctuary is dedicated to Her. The message that it strongly radiates is one of peace, charity, solidarity, reconciliation and justice. Every year pilgrims flock to this place of prayer and reflection. They are people of all walks of life, believers and non-believers, rich and poor alike. Different kinds of events are being organized there, conferences and catecheses are given. All of it is being provided with the purpose of quenching people’s thirst for God, for love and peace. Without any doubt this center of spirituality blossoms thanks to the Polish Pallotines who have been administering the Sanctuary since 1991.
THE STAR IN THE CROWN OF MARY
Taking into consideration the character of the Sanctuary our Association welcomed with great joy an invitation to establish there another Center of Prayer for Peace – a Star in the Crown of Mary in Yamoussoukro. The material expression of our spiritual longing to promote peace in the world is an altarpiece which was donated for the Chapel of Adoration in the Sanctuary. Created by “Drapikowski Studio” in Gdansk, Poland, the altar is called Donum Caritas et Pax and it is a material sign of spiritual union with other Centers of Prayer for Peace.
Among many symbolic motifs, just like in other altars, there are two that deserve special attention: Mary – the Monstrance of the Light – Jesus Christ, who is fully present under the sign of bread in the Eucharist. These central realities of the artist’s vision: Mary and the Light draw its inspiration directly from the Gospel and the Church’s teaching. It suffices to cite Jesus’ own words about Himself: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (J 8,12) and, in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St. John Paul II explains with his prophetic clarity of understanding: “When, at the Visitation, she [Mary] bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, # 55).
Yet the defining feature of the altar Donum Caritas et Pax, without any doubt, is that it has the form of the Holy Shroud, which clearly directs our thoughts to the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Our Lady, wrapped up in the Shroud, immersed in adoration of her Son, points with love to Eucharistic Jesus. Mr. Drapkowski explains: “Jesus stepped into the history of humanity in order to light it up with the radiance of God’s Love”. “And the most wonderful name of His love is Divine Mercy” – the artist adds. This truth finds its visual expression in his artwork in the rays beaming from the Eucharist, white made of zircons, and red made of rubies. Donum Caritas et Pax is adorned with other precious stones, among others, jasper symbolising the Tribe of Judah from which Jesus was born.
It took almost a year to accomplish the altar and many difficulties came on the way. The very first one was getting the Holy Shroud image in the highest possible resolution so that it could be printed on crystal. Professor Aldo Guerreschi from Turin, Italy, came to the artists’ aid and thanks to him the quality of the image is such that one can see the fabric of the linen. And it is a life-size image.
The altar Donum Caritas et Pax, through technologies and forms of artistic expression obviously touches infinite Mystery… Let’s allow the artist himself lead us into its depths with the words of his personal reflection, inspired by the teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI:
The Holy Shroud – Mirror of the Gospel
This Face, these Arms and Legs, this Side
This whole Body speaks
It is a Word itself,
that we can listen to in silence…
Passio Christi, Passio Hominis
Behold the Mystery of Holy Saturday!
In the darkness of Divine Son’s Death,
The Light of the New Hope shone forth:
I am the Light of the World.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness
But shall have the Light of Life.
Gazing at the Holy Linen through the eyes of faith,
One discerns some of This Light.
The Holy Shroud, immersed in this darkness
Deep, and yet radiant.
While contemplating – we perceive not only darkness,
but also light,
not only failure of life and love,
but above all, victory of life over death,
victory of love over hatred.
Indeed we can see Jesus’ death,
but we sense His Resurrection behind it.
In the center – Mary
Pieta wrapped up in a piece of the Shroud.
Tenderly holding the Eucharist.
Mary talks to us with this gesture:
My Son did not die.
He is Risen.
Trust Him! Entrust yourselves to Him!
He, who is Love.
Undoubtedly He will hear you.
He will give peace to your hearts and souls.
He is your “Donum Caritas et Pax”
He is your “Gift of Love and Peace”!
Praise the Lord with your lives full of faith, hope and charity.
The peregrination of the Donum Caritas et Pax altarpiece was inaugurated in Jasna Góra Sanctuary of the Black Madonna in Częstochowa, Poland, on 2 August 2014. Subsequently, it visited many churches and shrines in Poland, gathering those who wished to join in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for peace with us.
The altar was blessed by Pope Francis in the Vatican on 24 June 2015 prior to the General Audience. This important event was assisted by the Ambassador of Ivory Coast by the Holy See, the representatives of the Church hierarchy and of the Association.
The creation of the Center of Prayer for Peace in Yamoussoukro together with its material sign, the altar Donum Caritas et Pax within the initiative of the “12 Stars in the Crown of Mary” would not be possible without a generous support, both spiritual and material, of many people of good will. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to each and every one of them. May God’s blessing be upon you always. We also wholeheartedly invite all to join us in the chain of hearts begging for peace in the world. You might offer a Holy Hour for this intention, receive Eucharist, say a rosary or offer up your sufferings. Your contribution is precious, the world needs it very much.
You are also always most welcome to contact us at: [email protected]