The Shroud of Turin is displayed during a preview for journalists at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, April 18. A public exposition of the shroud, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus, runs from April 19 through June 24, 2015. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Turin expecting millions of pilgrims for shroud exposition

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • April 26, 2015

TURIN, Italy - A thin white cloth draped over the glass-covered Shroud of Turin was pulled down and billowed to the floor, marking the official opening of the venerated icon’s exposition to the public.

The unveiling came during a Mass held in the city’s cathedral of St. John the Baptist April 19 in the presence of a small group of dignitaries, religious and lay faithful.

“We have put ourselves in the wake of generations of pilgrims” who come to contemplate the shroud, and “it will do us good to feel like we are drops in the river ... of a humanity in need of God, of His affectionate mercy,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, papal custodian of the shroud, said in his homily.

Pope Francis authorized the public display of the shroud to help commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco, a 19th-century priest from the Turin region who was a pioneer in vocational education, worked with poor and abandoned children and founded the Salesian order. The Pope was scheduled to visit Turin June 21-22 and was to venerate the shroud.

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer in St. Peter’s Square April 19, the Pope said he hoped venerating the shroud “may help us all to find in Jesus Christ the merciful face of God and to recognize it in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer most.”

As it was for countless pilgrims over the centuries, the shroud continues to be an invitation to reflect on Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection, which in turn inspires and calls people to reach out to others in need, Nosiglia said at the morning Mass. 

“The shroud invites us to never let ourselves be beaten down by evil, but to overcome it with good,” he said.

As people gaze at the image, they no longer feel alone or afraid as soon they can discover “it is not we who are looking at that image,” but it is Christ who is gazing back at them, he said.

The shroud, believed by many Christians to have wrapped the crucified body of Christ, will be on public display through June 24. More than two million people are expected to visit. By mid-April, one million people had pre-booked their visit through the archdiocese’s free, but mandatory online and on-site reservation process.

Media outlets were given an exclusive preview April 18 when Nosiglia had the shroud unveiled for reporters. Flanked by uniformed members of the Italian military and police forces, the shroud’s high-tech protective case was positioned upright like a large landscape portrait, surrounded by large red velvet drapes and with a small box of green ivy and white tulips below. At least 100 journalists had cameras, mobile devices and eyes focused on the shadowy photonegative image of a man’s bearded face, crossed hands and long body — front and back — on the 3.5-metre by 1.5-metre linen cloth.

The man in the image bears all the signs of the wounds corresponding to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in His passion and death. Scientists have determined the dark stains around the head, hands, feet and right side are human blood, type AB.

The Church supports scientific research concerning the shroud and its possible age and origins — still the subject of heated debate — but it has never officially ruled on the shroud’s authenticity. Instead, the Church invites the faithful to reflect on the shroud’s image as a way to grasp the kind of suffering Jesus endured during His passion and death, and the love for humanity that sacrifice entailed.

Meanwhile, the city of Turin, which has been home to the shroud since 1578, was calmly gearing up for the expected influx of people. The city saw millions come for the last public displays in 1998, 2000 and 2010. Special maps with religious itineraries, pilgrim assistance centres and wheelchair-accessible confessionals had been set up to help guide and care for visitors.

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