Friday, September 01, 2006

Pope prays before veil of the "Holy Face"

International Herald Tribune

Pope makes pilgrimage to sanctuary in central Italy
The Associated Press
Published: September 1, 2006

MANOPPELLO, Italy Pope Benedict XVI on Friday visited and prayed at a sanctuary in this tiny village in central Italy that holds a veil some believe was used to wipe blood and sweat off Jesus Christ's face during the final hours before his crucifixion.

It was the first time that a pontiff has made a pilgrimage to the little-known, 17th-century sanctuary of Manoppello. Benedict arrived by helicopter and was greeted by a few thousand pilgrims waving flags with the Vatican's white and yellow colors, and carrying banners that read, "Hurrah for the pope," and "Benedict, Benedict."

Those welcoming the pontiff included Bishop Bruno Forte, a theologian and longtime friend of the pope. Forte serves as bishop in the nearby town of Chieti.

The pontiff entered the sanctuary and prayed before the altar for about five minutes, then went behind it and prayed before the veil, which also is known as the "Veil of Veronica," for a few more minutes.

The "Holy Face" is not as famous as the Holy Shroud of Turin, held to be Christ's burial cloth, but some experts say the images on the two cloths can be perfectly superimposed and were formed at the same time. Skeptics say it appears to have been painted.

According to Christian tradition, Veronica was one of the holy women who accompanied Jesus to Calvary. She offered him a cloth to wipe his face, and the image of Christ's face was imprinted on it.

Although the story is not in the Bible, it became one of the most popular in Christian lore.

The name "Veronica" also is a colloquial version of the Latin word "vera," meaning "true," and Greek word "icon," meaning "image." The "Veil of Veronica" was therefore largely regarded in medieval times as "the true image," and the truthful representation of Jesus, preceding the Shroud of Turin.

Benedict did not address the effigy's origins, as is usual with the Vatican, which is generally very cautious. But his visit has drawn interest to the image some believe to show the real face of Christ.

"This is the meaning of my visit. So that together we can try to better know the face of our Lord, so that from it we can find strength in love and peace that can show us the path," Benedict said.


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