The exposition of the Holy Shroud was a phenomenon of inexpressible importance, with a great number of pilgrims – about two million in 67 days – and a perfect organization supported by many volunteers scattered everywhere, between the entrance of the path in the gardens of Palazzo Reale, the prefecture hall, inside and outside the cathedral.
The cloth testified and actualized a unique and unrepeatable event in human history. The Shroud testifies to the historic reality of what happened in the Galilee and in Jerusalem 2000 years ago: a story that still concerns us intimately; a watershed between a before and an after in the world, between fall and redemption.
Now, after much time, we can think about the eminently pastoral nature of the exposition, which saw Pope Francis praying in front of the cloth.
Bergoglio prayed in silence for five minutes in front of the relic of the Passion, then a sign of the cross and a gesture of devotion by touching the frame, which holds the cloth … Not a word then. Since the masterly speeches of John Paul II in 1998 and Pope Benedict in 2010 came back to mind, someone wondered: why did he not speak? Actually Francis had already given a strong testimony during the chaotic and confused exposition on March 30, 2013, just two weeks after his election as Pontiff. During that exposition – it should be remembered – there were too many voices, too many faces, too little Shroud, and too little silence. Perhaps mindful of that confusion, peppered with sterile narcissistic performances, Pope Francis – as was defined, a pilgrim among pilgrims – chose silence.
But what does really think Francis abot the Shroud? We quote his words at the time: “I have set myself with you before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who gives us, with today’s tools, this opportunity … Ours is not just a gaze, but it’s a veneration, it is a prayer look. I’d rather say, it is allowing look. This face has closed eyes, is the face of a dead person, and yet mysteriously looks at us, and speaks in silence. How is it possible? How come the faithful people, like you, want to stop in front of this icon of a scourged and crucified man? Because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth.
This image – imprinted in the cloth – speaks to our hearts and impels us to climb Mount Calvary, to look at the wood of the Cross, to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of Love. So let us be catched by this look, which does not seek our eyes but our hearts. Let’s listen to what he wants to tell us, in silence, overcoming the death. Through the Holy Shroud the only and last word of God comes to us. Love that became man, that is incarnated in our history, the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil in the world to free us from its dominion. This disfigured face looks like many faces of men and women hurt by a life that does not respect their dignity, by war and violence that affect the weak … Yet the Face of the Shroud communicates a great sense of peace…”.
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo