VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Gazing upon the image of a crucified man on the Shroud of Turin, Catholics contemplate Jesus and are called on to remember his great love for them and for all who suffer, Pope Francis said.
The face on the shroud “has eyes that are closed; it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us,” the pope said in a video message broadcast March 30 on Italian state television.
The pope’s message was part of a special Holy Saturday exhibition of the shroud as part of the Year of Faith.
According to tradition, the 14-foot-by-4-foot Shroud of Turin is the linen burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.
Housed at Turin’s cathedral, the shroud usually is kept from public view in a specially designed, high-tech case to prevent its disintegration and other damage. Put briefly on public display on Holy Saturday, theshroud was the centerpiece of a prayer service where the sick were the special guests, read the prayer petitions and were the first to venerate the holy image.
The entire service was broadcast live on the main channel of Italian state television.
“This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love,” Pope Francis said in his message.
“This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest,” the pope said. “And yet, at the same time, the face in the shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.”
Pope Francis said the “restrained but powerful energy” of the image calls people to have faith and never lose hope because “the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.”
The pope ended his message reciting a prayer that St. Francis of Assisi was said to have recited before the crucifix: “Most High, glorious God, enlighten the shadows of my heart, and grant me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may accomplish your holy and true command. Amen.”
— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service