On the first stage of his apostolic journey to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI visited the celebrated image of the Infant Jesus of Prague. There, in the Church of Our Lady of Victories in the nation’s capital, he solemnly crowned this world famous image.
International Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported that, during the ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI pronounced the following prayer:O my Lord Jesus, we gaze on You as a child and believe that You are the Son of God, who became Man through the working of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Just as in Bethlehem, we, too, adore You, with Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, and acknowledge You as our only Savior. You became poor to enrich us with Your poverty. Grant that we may never forget the poor and all those who suffer. Protect our families, bless all the children of the world and grant that the love You have brought us may always reign amongst us and lead us to a happier life. Grant, O Jesus, that all may recognize the truth of Your birth, so that all may know that You have come to bring to the whole human family light, joy and peace. You are God, who live and reign with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
This crowning by the reigning Pope represents the highest honor the Church can pay to an image of Jesus Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The President of ACN, Father Joaquín Alliende, commented, “The gesture of the Holy Father is an expression of a profound truth. Even as a Child, Christ is already a King. The Child Jesus is the only King who can bring peace to the world."
The image of the Infant Jesus of Prague is believed to have been a gift from St. Teresa of Avila to a Spanish noblewoman. The noblewoman then gave it as a wedding gift to her daughter, who brought it to Prague in 1556. From 1628 onwards the image has been kept in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady of Victories in the historic Mala Strana district of Prague.
There the image went through troubled times. During the 30 Years War, the statue was desecrated by Protestant soldiers from Saxony, who hacked off its hands and threw it onto a pile of rubbish behind the altar, while the Carmelite Friars were expelled.
Some years later the image was found again by Father Cyrillus a Matre Dei, a Carmelite priest from Luxembourg who had a great devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague. According to legend, while praying before the statue he heard a voice saying, "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Since then the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague has flourished greatly and spread throughout the globe.
Today over a million pilgrims come each year to visit the church of Our Lady of Victories in Prague and to seek consolation and help from the Infant Jesus, while expressing their devotion to him. Numerous miracles and answers to prayers have been ascribed this image, which was also the inspiration for the renowned children’s story, The Little Prince , by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
More information about the Infant Jesus of Prague can be found on the official website of the shrine in Prague, at www.pragjesu.info.