Archbishop Georg Gänswein said on Sunday that the image known as the Holy Face of Manoppello conveys the “incomparable news” of Christ’s resurrection.
The Prefect of the Papal Household made the comment on Jan. 17 as he preached at Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, a village in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.
Gänswein recalled that in 2006 Benedict XVI became the first pope in more than 400 years to venerate the image, located in a church that is part of a Capuchin monastery.
“Pope Benedict had not come barefoot like Pope Innocent, but by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to Manoppello at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte [of Chieti-Vasto],” said Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary.
“And I still remember very vividly every moment of that meeting, as well as May 15, 2009, when Benedict XVI visited the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, from which the veil of the Holy Face -- as well as the Shroud of Turin -- originates as incomparable news of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.”
Some devotees of the Holy Face of Manoppello believe it is the “veil of Veronica” used to dry Christ’s face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the “resurrection cloth,” a “sudarium” that covered Christ’s face in the tomb. Others still consider it inauthentic.
In his homily on Sunday, published in full by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, Gänswein made it clear that he believed in the image’s authenticity.
He noted that in 1208 “Pope Innocent III carried this true image of the Lord, which we see and venerate here above the main altar, as humbly as a mendicant monk from the old Basilica of St. Peter in Rome to the sick of the capital, as well as the sick pilgrims from all over Europe, to the nearby Hospital of the Holy Spirit.”
“The most powerful and power-conscious pope of the Middle Ages brought the archetype of the merciful God barefoot to the sick and dying,” he said.
“Before that, this precious veil icon had been kept hidden for a long time. With this step, the image came out into the open and became publicly known for the first time in the entire Catholic Universal Church.”
Gänswein observed that in the liturgical calendar this Sunday is known as “Omnis terra” after the Latin words of Psalm 65: “Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!” (“Let all the earth worship you and praise you, o God; may it sing in praise of your name.”)
He said it was important to remember, as the coronavirus claims lives across the world, that Innocent III brought the image to the sick and poor, rather than scholars and noblemen.
“For all the world is suddenly threatened by an invisible virus, all continents, all skin colors, nations and religions -- truly all the people of this earth, young and old. All the world suddenly fears disease and death together, from Tierra del Fuego to Vladivostok,” he said.
He continued: “Therefore, it was for me a sacred duty as well as a great joy to come today, despite all the coronavirus obstacles, from Rome to Manoppello, where at present no pilgrims can come because of the pandemic. I had to come to bring the Holy Face, at least through the medium of the moving images of television, to as many sick and lonely people as possible.”
Gänswein said that he remembered accompanying Benedict XVI to the shrine “as if it were yesterday.” He said that the pope had decided, “despite some resistance,” to make the trip shortly before visiting his Bavarian homeland.
In an address, Benedict described the shrine as “a place where we can meditate on the mystery of divine love, contemplating the image of the Holy Face.”
Gänswein continued: “Pope Benedict ... on Sept. 1, 2006, brought the personal and ‘human face of God’ back to the Church and to all the world. He came all alone and not in the entourage of his advisers or the canons of St. Peter. And he came shyly and reservedly, as is his way, and only for contemplation and prayer.”
The archbishop concluded: “Church history will record this forever. And for this, the civil authorities of the city of Manoppello already gave him the keys at the Vatican on Nov. 3, 2010, in the presence of Archbishop Bruno Forte.”
“For this, I thank you again with all my heart, as well as all the friars of the Capuchin order and all the citizens of Manoppello, and today I thank you again especially and personally for the precious privilege of celebrating the Holy Eucharist here with you for all the sick and suffering of all the earth, under the merciful gaze of Christ: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world!’”