A fascinating article on the return of this icon to Russia by John Allen:
"…The return of the icon is a classic example of how John Paul II scandalizes ultra-conservative Catholics, especially those devoted to the Fatima prophecies. (Catholics older than I will remember praying for the conversion of Russia during the rosary because Our Lady of Fatima requested it.) It was the Blue Army, an American Catholic group committed to spreading the message of Fatima, that purchased the Kazan icon in the early 1960s and placed it in a Byzantine chapel in Fatima, awaiting the conversion of Russia. They turned the icon over to the pope in 1993. John Paul, it should be clear, is not one to take the Fatima prophecies lightly. He believes that on May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mary changed the flight path of a bullet to save him from an assassination attempt. Hence his decision to give the icon back to Russia means that he believes the “conversion” called for at Fatima has already happened – i.e., the collapse of Communism. He does not believe that Russia needs to “convert” in the ecclesiastical sense, meaning to become Roman Catholic. Indeed, John Paul has made it clear that he believes the salvation of Russia will be through Orthodoxy, and that the future lies not in conversion but in communion - the Latin and Byzantine churches coming together as one family of faith, each preserving its legitimate autonomy. This stance angers some traditionalists. As one Catholic traditionalist writer, Marian Horvat, recently put it: “The Russian schismatic church continues to spread the same heresies and errors that St. Pius X warned us against. Therefore, it did not convert. If some Catholic authorities deny that it is in error, they are denying the true faith.” The Kazan story, therefore, is another instance in which the popular label of John Paul as a “conservative” comes up short. …
McCarrick took the request to the board of the Blue Army.
“I didn’t tell them the whole story, because it was important to protect the Holy Father’s freedom of action,” McCarrick said. “I simply said that he would be delighted to have it, and they graciously agreed.”
The transfer had to be conducted quietly, McCarrick said, in order not to arouse the interest of governments and other parties. If word got out that the pope had the icon, it could have compromised his capacity to decide where and when it should be given back. (Indeed, when word later leaked that the icon was in the papal apartments, pressure grew for its return).