Wednesday, September 11, 2019

41st Anniversary of the Death of the Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese

Basilica of the Holy Face – Manoppello, Italy

Padre Domenico
da Cese



 Servant of God
Apostle of the Holy Face

41° Anniversary of his death
Sunday September 22, 2019

3:30pmUpdate on the spread in the world of devotion to the Servant of God  

Spontaneous testimonies from those               devoted to Padre Domenico
               5:30pm – Holy Mass presided by Fr.                       Nicola Galasso, 
           Provincial Minister of the Capuchin Friars

Friday, August 23, 2019

Veronica's Heart

Veronica’s Heart
(or The True Canvas of God)

article and photos by Paul Badde

(translation of the article which appeared in the August, 2019 edition of the Italian monthly Tempi)

"The name rose at the moment when your heart became an image: an image of truth/ Your name rose from your eyes lost in gazing", wrote Karol Wojtyla in 1978 in a poem that he called "The Name", addressed to the Veronica we know from the Sixth Station along the Way of the Cross.

The poet was a visionary. Shortly after writing this he will travel from Krakow to Rome, be elected pope and on October 22 present himself to the blocs of the world, then still rigidly divided, with the words "Do not be afraid!  Open, indeed, throw open wide the doors to Christ! To his saving power open the borders of states, economic systems such as political ones, vast fields of culture, civilization, development! Do not be afraid! Christ knows "what is inside man". Only he knows! [...] Let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.”  Let Christ speak to man!

A saint sat on the throne of Peter: John Paul the Great. It was a quantum leap of history. His election at the time shocked me to the point that in October 1978 John Paul II made me a journalist and a reporter who wanted and had to write all this. Until then I had been a history teacher. "This man will change the world," I wrote in my first article, which at that time no newspaper wanted to publish. However, the Polish Pope stood by my side. Soon, with an invisible hand, he would open up the access to many newsrooms in Germany, even though I had never learned the trade of a journalist. Because of him, in the fall of 1979 I went with my wife from Berlin to Poland, where for the first time in our lives we met a living image in the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Because of him, in March 1979 we wanted to call our fourth child John Paul, but after her birth we decided for Mary Magdalene. 

He really became "my pope". As a correspondent for the Berlin newspaper Die Welt, I therefore had the opportunity to be there in person, on April 21, 2000, when the old poet on the papal throne in his reflections on Good Friday returned once again to his old poetry of 1978 (which was first published in 1979, after his election).

“Veronica does not appear in the Gospels” he said on that occasion.  “Her name is not mentioned, even though the names of other women who accompanied Jesus do appear.
It is possible, therefore, that the name refers more to what the woman did. In fact, according to tradition, on the road to Calvary a woman pushed her way through the soldiers escorting Jesus, and with a veil wiped the sweat and blood from the Lord’s face. That face remained imprinted on the veil, a faithful reflection, a “true icon” …If so, the name …carries with it the deepest truth about her.”

The holy genius knew that in real history the poetic figure of Veronica, like no other, had kept alive the awareness that Christians have the treasure of an authentic image of God, not made by human hands. A stroke of the genius of God for the benefit of our memory.

But "what is truth?" Jesus is silent when Pontius Pilate asks him, he merely looks at the Roman procurator. In Jesus truth had become man. It stood there in front of him. The problem of truth in the history of humanity has never received a more moving answer than in that interrogation. Pilate finds no fault in the accused. He has him whipped, tortured with a crown of thorns and presents him to those who invoke his death with the words: "Behold the man".

God, who created man in His image, shows Himself here in Jesus as the first and last of all his images, as "the image of the invisible God", as Paul later wrote. Ecce homo! Face the truth! Then Pilate delivers the Son of man to his persecutors: "Take him and crucify him!"

But the trial of Pilate continues today, together with his question: "What is truth?" And just as he was silent then, Jesus is silent even today. In the meantime, however, new witnesses have been added to the trial. And these are the very ancient and "angelic witnesses", as it says in the Easter Sequence that for a thousand years has been sung at Easter by Christians of the West: "Sudarium et vestes". The "sudariumˮ and the “clothsˮ that were found in the tomb of Christ after his resurrection.

Among the "cloths" there is first of all the great linen shroud that in 1578 was brought from France to Turin, where for a long time it was also called "sudariumˮ.  The true sudarium however is the so-called veil of Veronica, which is considered to have disappeared from the Vatican after the Sack of Rome in May 1527. It is the "Vera Eikon”, as this original is called, with a Latin-Greek hybrid term, an anticipation in a certain sense of a final unity between Eastern-Orthodox and Western Christianity.

It is the true image of the face of God, about which on August 6, 2004 I wrote to "my Pope" the following letter: «Holy Father, some research on the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe led me to an image of her son that does not resemble any portrait on Earth./ It is in the care of the Capuchins of Manoppello in the Abruzzi, where it has been venerated for 400 years by the population as the "Holy Face". Throughout the centuries many sources have spoken of the same image as "Veronica". / The measurements of this "Holy Face" correspond exactly in its proportions to those of the face of the "Holy Shroud" of Turin. Both cloths show the same person and go beyond the limits of human artistic abilities, without the slightest trace of color. Compared to the Turin linen shroud, however, the veil of Manoppello appears woven from byssus, the precious sea silk of antiquity. in backlighting it is transparent, in shadow it is slate-colored. Instead in the light the veil is golden and honey-colored, as Saint Gertrude of Helfta described the face of the Lord already in the 13th century. It is a living image. It is the Lord. / On March 24th I was able to be a witness in the Sala Clementina when you presented your vision of a "Europe of people on whom the face of God shines". And for the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne you chose as its guiding principle "We want to see Jesus! /. / Please Holy Father, show the young people and adults the “Veronica of Manoppello!” In the Veronica they will see Jesus. / Yours, PB.

The holy poet-Pope graciously thanked me with a blessing, but he was no longer able to personally come to the true self portrait. He no longer had the strength. He could not even go to World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, he had to leave that meeting to his successor.

However, on September 23, 2004, I was able to write a first long dispatch regarding Veronica’s return in my capacity as correspondent for the Berlin-based newspaper Die Welt, which both the Pope and his cardinal Joseph Ratzinger read carefully. When on April 2, 2005 John Paul II returned to the Father's house, therefore, the news of the true image of God among men circulated again in the world.

But this was possible only thanks to an article that Renzo Allegri, the great biographer of Padre Pio, published on three pages in the Italian magazine Gente (“People”) already on September 30, 1978, or rather in the same weeks in which Karol Wojtyla wrote in Krakow his hymn to Veronica that today can be read as a key to his entire pontificate.

pages one and two of Renzo Allegri's article on the Holy Face of Manoppello

page three of Renzo Allegri's article on the Holy Face of Manoppello

In the first, decisive major report, by Renzo Allegri, on the True Icon we, however, read at the beginning:
"The image of the face of Jesus which has been venerated for almost 500 years in Manoppello, in Abruzzo, is a mysterious image imprinted on a veil of extraordinary fineness that tradition indicates as the "Sudarium of Christ ". It would be the little cloth made from the finest linen that Jesus' mother would have laid over her son's face before he was wrapped in the funeral cloths for burial. But it is not the face of the dead Christ of the Shroud with eyes closed, but a face quite different, that of a person alive, with eyes open and scars healed: it seems to be the image of the newly risen Christ. [...] From the human point of view, it is inexplicable ».

In the meantime, more than 40 years have passed since the release of this article, and it almost seems that Padre Pio had guided the hand of the journalist, who at the time had already dedicated three books to him. This article also marked a quantum leap in Veronica's return process - yet for many readers it could not be considered credible. The news that Christianity possessed an authentic image of the face of God had become too unbelievable for the modern world - news that moreover was not spread by theology seminars, but in a popular magazine to be leafed through in hair salons.

page in Gente backing Renzo Allegri's article on the Holy Face of Manoppello

cover of the edition of Gente containing Renzo Allegri's article on the Holy Face of Maoppello

The cause of this article on the "Little Shroud in Abruzzo" ¬ - as Allegri entitled his report on the Holy Face of Manoppello - at that time was the exposition of the "Holy Shroud" in Turin, the first since 1933, seen as a major event, attracting the attention of the whole world. But while Allegri was still writing his report, the pilgrim who had circulated the voice of this second shroud in the world died in Turin. It was the Capuchin Father Domenico de Cese, who wanted to see for the first time with his own eyes the "Holy Shroud", after having rediscovered in the veil of Manoppello, years earlier, the holy sudarium mentioned by John the Evangelist in his Gospel of Christ's resurrection. It was the veil that for a long time had been referred to as the "sudarium of Veronica."

Father Domenico da Cese, O.F.M, Cap.

For Karol Wojtyla Veronica's heart had become the canvas of God.

from "Christ Carrying the Cross" by Hieronymus Bosch

And once again in our midst is this "lost face" of which Jorge Luis Borges wrote in Buenos Aires in 1960: "If we knew what he really looked like, then we would have the key to the parables, and we would know if the carpenter's son was also the son of God". The poet was blind. Yet he too was a seer, like John Paul II - and he was right. He had never seen the veil of Veronica, like Karol Wojtyla. Yet it is as Borges used to say. It is a miraculous fabric, unique and unparalleled, like truth itself. 

There is no other "image" that matches it. No one knows how it was formed. In this veil, however, we truly possess a key to understanding Jesus' parables and we can testify that the Son of Man was truly the Son of God. In this veil, as nowhere else, can we recognize that the Creator of heaven and earth became man and person, and not book. Here Jesus Christ shows us that the incarnation of God was not an interlude. He did not strip off our nature as if it were a mask.. He is still a man, in eternity and glory. "The glory of God is the living man", wrote Irenaeus of Lyons around the year 180 in his work Against Heresies, and again: "The life of man is the vision of God".

And here we now look at God himself in a personal encounter with a living man, and we can recognize him as the person who stands before us. We can, but we do not have to. For the true image is silent, as Jesus kept silent before Pilate.  It does not oblige us to do anything.

However, everyone here, like the pilgrim of Dante's Divine Comedy who saw before himself in Rome the same veil, can again whisper: "My Lord Jesus Christ, true God, so was this how your face looked?" [«Segnor mio Iesù Cristo, Dio verace, or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra?»]

Because the True Icon, the Veronica, has really returned and lets itself be contemplated day after day from morning to night. Close as never before, not far away as before in Rome, from the loggia of the old basilica of Saint Peter’s, but in a small out of the way pilgrim church in Abruzzo. Here we see the face of Christ as near to us as it was to Veronica herself, who made her way through the crowd along Jesus' Way of the Cross to offer him her heart, so that he would imprint his face upon her, no longer full of blood and wounded, but healed, in the splendor of his resurrection. Disarmed and disarming. Veronica converts us.

Now her image binds me like a thread of byssus also with my mother and my father, and with Domenico da Cese and Renzo Allegri - and with "my Pope” in Heaven and with his old longing and desire, with which he makes Veronica whisper the words: “I want to be so close that no void can reveal itself apart from You, so close that your absence cannot return to me.”
Here, in the midst of all the pilgrims, we see: the true icon transforms us all into visionaries.

Paul Badde
Manoppello, 15 July 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord at Manoppello

                                          video  by Angelo and Agatha Rytz

Text and photos by Antonio Bini

On the 6th of August the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus was celebrated at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello, as each year, with fervor and joy. An ancient feast that began to be celebrated in the East in the fifth century, whose meaning, with reference to the symbolism of light, was explained by Msgr. Bruno Forte, archbishop of the diocese of Chieti-Vasto, who presided over the solemn celebration together with Fr. Nicola Galasso, Provincial Minister of the Capuchins of Abruzzo, Fr.  Carmine Cucinelli, rector of the Shrine, Fr. Paolo Palombarini, and other religious.  This feast has great significance for the Shrine.

Pope Francis stressed in a tweet released on August 6 that "In the Transfiguration Jesus shows us the glory of the Resurrection: a glimpse of heaven on earth".

 Following the Mass, immediately after sunset, the short 700 foot procession with the Holy Face was conducted, accompanied by the singing of the choir of the Basilica of the Holy Face, alternating with  pieces performed by the band from Lettomanoppello.

Many pilgrims came from throughout Italy and abroad. Among the latter I noticed a small group from Hong Kong as well as religious from Austria. I also met Fr. Johannes Van Tan Nguyen, a Vietnamese Cistercian monk.

Fr. Johannes Van Tan Ngyuen along with fellow Cistercian monk and Sr. Blandina Schloemer

Upon the return of the Holy Face to the shrine,  Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, in front of the main door of the basilica, thanked all the people who collaborated in the realization of the celebration and those who are committed to spreading the Holy Face in the world. On this occasion he recalled Daisy Neves, who died last March, as an example followed by others who are continuing her mission. He also announced that knowledge of the Holy Face is expanding in Mexico and South American countries such as Colombia.

The Holy Face was exhibited for the whole day, for a total of 24 hours. By a special  privilege from the Pope, the faithful who arrived in Manoppello were able to gain the plenary indulgence. Finally, it is recalled that beginning with the year 2000, on the proposal of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the feast of the Transfiguration has become a day of particular intercession for the unity of Christians.

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Tribute to Daisy Neves from the Official Publication of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

The Passing of Daisy Neves
The Missionary of the Holy Face
by Antonio Bini      from the June 2019 edition of  Il Volto Santo di Manoppello 

Last March 29th, Mrs. Daisy Neves, a devotee of the Holy Face and a great supporter of its  spread throughout the world, passed away in Bellevue, Washington, USA. She was born in the Philippines in 1938, but as a child emigrated with her family to the United States. She discovered the Holy Face by reading an article concerning Benedict XVI's visit to Manoppello. In 2011 she made her first pilgrimage to the Holy Face, after which she began to develop a program for promoting the Holy Face, proposing to Father Carmine Cucinelli, two international missions - in 2014 and 2015 - to various cities in the United States, Canada and the Philippines (including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Vancouver, Manila, etc.), with various initiatives that led to the enthronement of the Holy Face in local churches, in agreement with the dioceses and with the Shrine of Manoppello. 

Daisy with Paul Badde, Ethelyn David and Ellen Badde during the Mission to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The first enthronement took place on September 14, 2014 in a small town in the Philippines - Nampicuan - with the church elevated the following year to the Diocesan Shrine of the Holy Face, the first in Asia, now a destination for pilgrims from the Philippines and other Asian countries. When she started her mission- in which she involved various religious and laity, building a network of friends of the Holy Face - Mrs Neves was already suffering from cancer. At the beginning of 2015 she thought her time had come, yet continued to work tirelessly to spread the Holy Face, despite the suffering following the various cycles of chemotherapy.

Daisy, along with Raymond Frost, Fr. Lawrence Goode, Pastor, Augustine Pham and Deacon Christoph Sandoval on November 11, 2017 in the church of St. Francis of Assisi, East Palo Alto, California following the Enthronement of the Holy Face which Daisy donated to the church

She met His Holiness Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople, to whom she gave a copy of 
the Holy Face, as well as leaders of the Lebanese Maronite Church, aware that the Holy Face was a spiritual patrimony of all of Christianity and not just of Catholics. She said that the Holy Face had prolonged her life.

Daisy presenting a book on the Holy Face to Patriarch Bartholomew

Last October she made a final trip to Manoppello, accompanied by her son Erwin, being able to stay in the hotel "La Casa del Pellegrino", (Pilgrim House) adjacent to her beloved shrine. A journey that coincided with the umpteenth enthronement of the Holy Face -- in the parish of Saints Elisabeth and Zacchariah in Rome --, whose pastor - Fr Bonifacio (Ted) Lopez - of Filipino origins, for years in Italy,  had accompanied Father Carmine on the mission of 2015. The photos of those days spent in her beloved Shrine show her enthusiasm and joy, despite the gradual deterioration of her health, which she tried to hide.

Daisy speaking in the Shrine in October 2018 to a group of pilgrims from California with her son Erwin and Fr. Carmine by her side

To understand her generous commitment and above all her faith, I would like to highlight a message she wrote to me on November 6, 2018, shortly after returning to the United States where she told me that she had just received in her home five ladies from Chile. and that the Holy Face was spreading to the remotest corners of the world.

An occasion to reiterate "that which had been my only intention: to share with others, and not just a few, that Jesus left us His beautiful Holy Face. This is important for me, so that they too ¬ (the Chilean ladies, Ed.) will share this with others one day."  She wrote to me that she was uneasy about her health, but that "it was a blessing to serve the Lord, especially in illness and physical weakness”. Testimonies that express how extraordinary this person has been: generous, very religious, but also practical and courageous in developing actions for the purpose of revealing the knowledge and devotion to the Holy Face. 

She was very attached to Father Carmine and to the Capuchins of Manoppello, to the priests involved in the missions and those leading parishes where devotion to the Holy Face was tangible, as well as to the Bishops, to Sister Blandina, Paul Badde (who was part of the 2015 mission), Sister Petra-Maria Steiner and also to this author. For each of my articles translated into English and published by Raymond Frost in San Francisco on the blog she sent me a message of appreciation, confident that during so many sleepless nights it was comforting to reread the old articles on the blog.

In the last hours of her life, although visibly weakened by the illness, she appeared serene, in prayer with several friends linked to the mission, such as Ethelyn David (from Vancouver), Corgie Bernardo, etc., preparing for death, taking in her hands the images of the Holy Face and of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Among the messages following her death I point to that of Bishop Victor Ocampo (Diocese of Gumaca, Philippines), in which while referring to the Shrine of Manoppello, he recalls having received a copy of the Holy Face from her as a gift, which was then solemnly enthroned by him - in her memory - on May 12 in the church of the Most Holy Rosary in Lopez, in the province of Quezon.

Daisy in front of the bulletin board of the Shrine pointing to an article and photo of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, regarding the Cardinal's visit to the Shrine for the Feast of the Holy Face in May 2017

Daisy will continue to be held up as an example for the continuation of the mission of the Holy Face, with horizons that previously seemed impossible and the effects of her mission are vast.
Father Carmine wanted to remember her with the following message - distributed in English - to her children and grandchildren, friends and religious linked to her activities - in which he gives her the title "Missionary of the Holy Face".

MESSAGE from Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, Rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello in memory of DAISY NEVES
Dear children, brother, sister, nephews and nieces and family whole, relatives and friends of DAISY,
I would like to express to you my so profound and cordial condolences.
On March 29 2019, the world has impoverished for the loss of a dear and marvelous person. We have lost a woman of profound faith, a holy mother, a wise guide, a benefactress, a person on sensible and delicate spirit; a great and in-loved devout of the Holy Face.
Last year month of October, feeling that horrendous sickness that was returning to threaten her, she wanted to spend a week in the contemplation of the face of Christ here in Manoppello, accompanied by her son Alfred, staying a few steps from the sanctuary.
She wanted to contemplate long that face before going to see him in heaven.
Back home, when her cancer became definitely acute, was been obedient to what the doctors said: she underwent harrowing treatment. She wrote me:
"my life is in God's hands. Terrible to say that I am plagued with 2 types of cancer. I will continue to pray for trust in the Lord who gives life and who takes it away as He pleases. I surrender my life to the divine will of God. Amen. I am really ready to see Jesus face to face. I just have to enjoy every day that the Lord has granted me in prayers, and to work at the Mission of the Holy Face, which is my joy and, if He gives me more time, I would like to continue spreading the devotion to Holy Face”.
Her pilgrimage to heaven is similar to that of a patriarch, surrounded by the love of the beloved, whom she had blessed one by one. She was so happy to have seen the Holy Face, her reliquary, enthroned in her parish church. Until a few hours before returning to the Lord she has contemplated in video, the Holy Face almost alive from Manoppello,
She has loved everyone, she has forgiven those who had hurt her and offered to the Lord all his sufferings for the spiritual good of family members, because they may live as true children of God. She asked many Holy Masses to be celebrated for every dear member of the family and for every friend so that their lives may be filled with many heavenly blessings.
While we blow off in tears over the loss of this dear sister, we want to thank God for the gift of giving us Daisy for over eighty years.
For being so grateful for all she has done for the diffusion of the DEVOTION TO THE HOLY FACE, we from the SANTUARY OF MANOPpELLO, entitle and attribute to Mrs. Daisy Neves the title "MISSIONARY OF THE HOLY FACE”.
God uses much mercy toward her and the rest in the eternal Kingdom.
Padre Carmine Cucinelli, Rettore della basilica del Volto Santo di Manoppello

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Beautiful Video on the Feast of the Holy Face of Manoppello May 2019

This is a truly wonderful video which summarizes the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Face of Manoppello May 19 and 20, 2019  services in both the Basilica of the Holy Face and the church of San Nicola, and the processions from the Basilica in the hills above Manoppello to the church of San Nicola inside the walls of Manoppello and return the following day to the Basilica.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Twenty Years Ago the World Heard That the Veronica Was Rediscovered in a Remote Shrine In Abruzzo

Erich B. Kush, President of the Foreign Press Association of Rome introducing Press Conference of May 31, 1999 conducted by Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J. (left) and Professor Donato Vittore

Fr. Germano di Pietro, OFM, Cap., Antonio Bini, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, SJ on the day of Press Conference 

Twenty years ago the international press conference in Rome which announced the findings of Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J. that the Veronica was in Abruzzo

by Antonio Bini

(translator's note:  a shorter version of this article appears in the June 2019 edition of the Shrine's magazine, Il Volto Santo di Manoppello)

Twenty years have passed since an event that initiated the unstoppable process of knowledge and communication of the Holy Face around the world. "In a remote shrine at the foot of the Maiella, in Abruzzo, Veronica has been rediscovered after being missing for more than four centuries":  the news, a few months before the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, burst into the headlines of the main Italian and foreign television networks, which broadcast with emphasis the results of the press conference organized at the Rome headquarters of the Foreign Press Association in Italy. In the crowded meeting, which was attended by many foreign journalists, Jesuit Father Henirich Pfeiffer, professor of Christian art and director of the course of cultural heritage at the Gregorian University of Rome, presented the results of years of study in support of the identification of Veronica with  the Holy Face revered in Manoppello. A research started a number of years earlier, based on some early insights of Sister Blandina, who documented the congruence of the veil of Manoppello with the face of the man on the Shroud of Turin. The German Jesuit's discourse was completed with the presentation of some research carried out a few months earlier by Prof. Donato Vittore, professor of the University of Bari, concerning the singularities of the veil emerging from investigations carried out with a very high resolution scanner. It was, according to the scholar, an inexplicable image. Also present was the rector pro tempore of the Shrine of Manoppello, Father Germano Di Pietro.

Until then the Holy Face had been known only locally, although recent research on the figure of Father Dominic da Cese has revealed the presence of a core of devotees from other regions of Italy and also from Germany and Austria. But these groups were attracted mainly by the charismatic figure of Father Domenico, who, moreover, never tired of urging pilgrims to the devotion of the Holy Face. At that time many considered the Holy Face a painting or a simple reproduction, as some rare tour guides hinted. Also on the level of printed material the rare traces of publications and studies led to a few very isolated texts, printed locally and without any diffusion that went beyond Abruzzo religious circles. I allude to the essays of Father Filippo da Tussio, published in L'Aquila in 1875, and the work by Father Antonio da Serramonacesca, published in Pescara in 1966 and little more, represented by some devotional pamphlets.

cover of the book by Father Filippo da Tussio on the Holy Face of Manoppello

But let's take a look at the steps leading up to the press conference.

During 1998, there had been some echoes in Manoppello of the German Jesuit's hypothesis about the Holy Face, which is why the Pro Loco (local volunteer grassroots promotional association) had decided to organize a conference so that Prof. Pfeiffer could inform the local community of his studies. In November, the President of the Pro Loco, Prof. Nicola Costantini, told me about the conference he was organizing, inviting me to give a talk on how Abruzzo was preparing for the Great Jubilee of 2000. I was then the director of tourism promotion for the Abruzzo region and in charge of the Jubilee Communication Project. I gladly agreed to participate in the conference, being an opportunity to speak about the 64 page booklet "Abruzzo on the way to the Jubilee" – , published in five languages, for a total of 250 thousand copies. On that occasion, the work of its publication was at the center of a positive collaboration – for the general lines of the work – between public and religious institutions, and therefore with the then archbishop of the diocese Chieti-Vasto and president of the Bishops' Conference Abruzzese-Molisana, Edoardo Menichelli.  Upon receiving news of the conference I was able to insert a very brief reference to the hypothesis of Fr. Pfeiffer, just as the booklet was going to print.

On 19 December 1998, the day of the meeting, I finally had the opportunity to meet and listen to Father Pfeiffer during the conference held at the Pilgrim Hotel adjacent to the shrine. I still remember now how very impressed  I was by the discourse of the German scholar and especially by the historical news about the Veronica, “The most important relic of the whole Christian world", and therefore on the reasons, also documented by numerous photographic slides, which led to the identification of the legendary veil with the Face of Manoppello. Until then, I thought Veronica belonged above all to legends. I also returned to Manoppello to observe the Holy Face carefully and at length. A living face appeared to me that seemed to speak to me. An impalpable image, but present, despite the exceptional transparency, that distinguished it from any painting.  In the days immediately following, I set out to search for historical sources on the Veronica, also with the help of my mother, former professor of Italian and history and scholar of religious spirituality. I then asked Father Germano to have documentation on the Holy Face. He allowed me to go to the archive inside the Friary permitting me to take any duplicate copies of the back issues of the old magazines and other publications regarding the Holy Face. I then compared what was heard at the Conference of Manoppello with my first research, also on the basis of essays that in the run-up to Jubilee 2000 were published on the history of the Jubilee events, convincing me of the extraordinary importance of the studies and the hypothesis of Father Pfeiffer.

Only a year before the conference in Manoppello, the thick clouds of silence that enveloped Manoppello’s Holy Face for centuries began to dissipate. The occasion was the first International Congress on "The Face of Faces, Christ", which was held in Rome, at the Pontifical Urban University, on the initiative of the International  Institute for Research on the Face of Christ, founded by  Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini (1916-2014), who  responded with intensity to the stimulus of Pope John Paul II, expressed in the years leading up to the Great Jubilee of 2000.

Archbishop Fiorenzo Angelini (later named Cardinal) with Padre Germano and Sister Maria Maurizia Biancucci,  Superior of the Benedictine Reparation Sisters of the Holy Face at Manoppello in the 1990's

In fact, the initiative is to be traced back to the path identified by John Paul II in his apostolic letter Tertio Millennium Adveniente, issued on 10 November 1994, in which the lines of preparation for the Jubilee were fixed, which envisaged for the year 1997 the initiation of the "reflection on Christ", “it is necessary to "highlight the distinctly christological character of the Jubilee"(cf. 40).

So at the beginning of 1997, the elderly cardinal, the only one at that time a native of Rome, immersed himself with great commitment to the enterprise, calling Prof. Heinrich Pfeiffer to cooperate in the preparation of the first congress, which was the context in which theologians and historians from various countries expressed hypotheses on the identification of the Veronica. Some articles dealt with the Holy Face, but in reality a general indifference prevailed.

Yet Cardinal Angelini, who also moved cautiously, had in the meantime become a strongly devoted and frequent visitor of the Holy Face in Manoppello, so much so that he put under its protection " the present and the future of the dear Benedictine Congregation of the Reparation Sisters of the Holy Face”, of which he was a spiritual leader and who had been involved in the organization of the activities of the Institute (cf. Shrine Guest Register, November 6, 1997).  All this happened despite the fact that the Congregation, founded by Venerable Abbot Ildebrando Gregori (1894-1985), was inspired by the Holy Face which came in a dream to Sr. M. Pierina De Micheli (1890-1945). A face very close to that of the man of the Shroud.  Later I learned that Abbot Ildebrando Gregori himself became a frequent visitor to Manoppello in the late 1950s.

In early 1999, there grew in me the strong conviction of the need to make public the results of Father Pfeiffer's studies in a context wider than that which was strictly academic and theological.
I took the idea first to Father Germano and then to Father Pfeiffer himself. With these premises, the Region of Abruzzo promoted the press conference in Rome. Once the date of May 31 had been decided, I had to inform Archbishop Menichelli with a letter dated May 28 1999, in which I explained that the conference would  give "an exposition of the historical-scientific outlines emerging from the studies by Professor Heinrich Pfeiffer of the Gregorian University of Rome and Prof. Donato Vittore, University of Bari about the possible identification of the Holy Face of Manoppello with the precious relic of Veronica, at one time revered at St. Peter’s". A simple wording, which a few months later appeared to me naive, as it certainly did not take into account the historical complexity of the issue and, above all, the attitude of the official Church, which had never admitted the disappearance of the revered image, as well as the hostile positions by some influential sindonologists (Shroud experts), especially Italians.

Letter informing Archbishop Menichelli of the Press Conference of May 31, 1999

In the aftermath of the press conference, which had a huge impact, never repeated since, not even with the visit of Benedict XVI, Archbishop Menichelli sent me a telegram in which he thanked me for informing him. A cautious message, which, however, conveyed great satisfaction. On the other hand, the then archbishop of Chieti, afterwards created cardinal in January 2015, had always been very attached to the Shrine of the Holy Face, which he chose as a Jubilee church of 2000.

Letter of acknowledgement regarding Press Conference from Archbishop Menichelli  

The most aloof circles turned out to be that of the Catholic media. The Spanish TV news Antenna 3, in reporting the news with an extensive service, showed adherence to the Pfeiffer hypothesis, feeling the duty to emphasize the "total silence" of the Vatican. The absence of official comments or positions mitigated the communicative effects of the press conference, while newspapers and magazines were very interested in the historical aspects related to Veronica's image. For example, the German magazine Focus published an article entitled "Pilgrims deceived" ("Getaesche pilger"), immediately highlighting the delicate question of silence that for centuries would have hidden the Veronica's disappearance, the relic which had represented the aspiration of medieval pilgrims.

The most-followed television news program in Italy (TG1 – RAI), in the absence of official expressions of the Church, heard the opinion of the most wel-known scholar of the Shroud, Prof. Pierluigi Baima Bollone, who spoke of the Holy Face as a simple copy. Only a year later, the sindonologist had to admit Sr. Blandina's conclusions on the overlapping of the Shroud and the Holy Face, at least in ten points, in a book entitled: "Shroud, 101 Questions and Answers".

On the question of whether or not the Veronica was present in St. Peter's, there was no lack of discussion within the Church, even if only in certain circumstances did clear positions emerge. Among these I recall an article by Dario Dezza, a Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, which appeared in the monthly 30 Days  No. 3 of March 2000, which questioned the thesis of Fr. Pfeiffer, and without ever mentioning it, writing that in St. Peter’s Basilica "is guarded the most famous relic in the world , the "Shroud of Christ, commonly referred to as the Veronica." Following this he admits he is involving himself in a "tangled" (sic!) story and that the image presents a dark background. Two months later, in the same magazine, Fr. Pfeiffer replied firmly to the Canon of St. Peter with a further article entitled "But the “Veronica" is in Manoppello", strongly dismissing the canon's claims. The matter was not followed up further, at least in that magazine.

It is also significant to point out the letter from a devotee of Manoppello to which the editors of the Famiglia Cristiana, the most popular Italian Catholic weekly, responded.  The devotee, who complained in the letter about the disinterest of the Catholic weekly compared to what the Italian and foreign media reported, and the privileged attention paid to the Shroud by the weekly. In the polite reply letter, the silence was justified by the line of the text, which statedit is not our custom to chase after sensational discoveries, especially when they recycle things already known and that are occasionally presented as discoveries".  It is a response that gives one pause considering that little or nothing had emerged on the Holy Face outside the strictly local area, while the same weekly had never been interested in the veil of Manoppello.

But time led to different attitudes, as we could see over the next few years. In fact, it was Famiglia Cristiana that published the book "The Face of the Risen One", authored by Saverio Gaeta, then editor-in-chief of the magazine, distributed in Italian newsstands along with the issue of the magazine for Easter 2005. It was the first book published and distributed nationally on the Holy Face of Manoppello. In the same year, just a few months later, Paul Badde's book was published in Germany with the title “The Divine Face”

But let’s return to the effects of the conference at the Foreign Press Association. With the article "At the Threshold of 2000, the Holy Face made headlines around the world”, I told of that event in the magazine of the shrine “Il Volto Santo di Manoppello”. The article marked the beginning of my collaboration with this magazine, which has become constant over the years. A journey that has made me over time a witness and chronicler of so many extraordinary facts.

With that issue (No. 2/1999), the magazine first came out in color. In his editorial, Father Germano wrote that "throughout the world a proclamation has resounded: The Roman Veronica has been found." In the same issue, the late Father Ignazio Scurti, an elderly, wise and cultured Capuchin friar, observed enthusiastically: "The Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello has taken flight (and what a flight!)". In the same issue, another article unsigned, but attributable to Father Germano, spoke about the visits to the shrine by cardinals Sodano, Tonini and Pappalardo that took place in the days immediately following the press conference of Rome. With great simplicity the article recounted the fear of the Capuchins regarding possible reproaches for having "dared" to identify Veronica with the Holy Face. The assessments of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then Secretary of State, were of particular concern. At the end of the visit, Father Germano admitted: "Fear has disappeared: now it can be said openly, even if only by hypotheses”. For centuries the Capuchins had not been able to do that!

In that summer of 1999, several events relating to the imminent beginning of the Jubilee were in full preparation.  Among the events’ purposes were also, and certainly not secondarily, to propose a historical dimension to the figure of Christ in the bi-millennial anniversary of his birth.

In the autumn of 1999 I was invited by Fr. Pfeiffer to attend the third conference of the International Institute of Research on the Face of Christ, also chaired by Cardinal Angelini. There I was able to experience first-hand the palpable coldness and skepticism with which most speakers and participants followed the discourse by the German Jesuit.  Several years later, Paul Badde would write in his first book on the Holy Face: "..that professor (Fr. Pfeiffer) told me that there was in the world a more significant image than the Shroud. Only a lunatic could assert a thing like that and such, it had been told to me, was Father Pfeiffer." But the rigor of Fr. Pfeiffer's research and his tenacity have managed over time to overcome so many mistrusts, the validity of his studies becoming more and more recognized.

We also know that on several occasions Cardinal Angelini spoke of the Holy Face with John Paul II. At that time, rumors also emerged that the Polish pope would have made a private visit to the shrine on a weekday, hidden from the Capuchins themselves, when it was still possible to be in front of the Holy Face in an empty church. In this regard it should be remembered that after the death of the pope, his secretary Stanislaus Dziwisz, afterwards Cardinal of Krakowadmitted a hundred private getaways by the Pope to his beloved Abruzzo mountains.

On 29 October 1999, less than five months after the press conference of Pfeiffer and Vittore, an important exhibition on the history of jubilees opened at Palazzo Venezia in Rome, entitled: "Pilgrims to Rome and Jubilee, The Medieval Pilgrimage to St. Peter’s (350-1350)". The exhibition, promoted by the Italian State, through the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Fabbrica (see description in the note below) of St. Peter’s , set up with documents and works of art from various museums and archives around the world, some exhibited for the first time.  It gave a significant space to the history of the Veronica, which in past centuries was considered the "image of Christ for the universal church" (cf. Gerhard Wolf, Exhibition Catalog, Electa, Milan, 1999, p. 217). Paradoxically, the revered image re-emerged only through the memory of the medieval pilgrimage to Rome, the dream and reality of the ancient pilgrims to Rome.

Cover of the Catalog for the Exhibition on Pilgrims to Rome and Jubilee:  The Medieval Pilgrimage to St. Peter's (350-1350)

The Veronica broke out of its oblivion after centuries of silence, not without the persistence of the ambiguity about whether or not the extraordinary image exists today. All this while the comparison between the very contents of the exhibition showed the diversity of the images inspired by Veronica (true icon) before the sixteenth century from that of subsequent reproductions, especially since the nineteenth century, circulated by the Vatican itself, where Veronica was represented with eyes closed.
In the same autumn, on 23 October 1999, the exhibition "Penuel: The Face of the Lord: The Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello: a single Face " was inaugurated in Manoppello with 27 panels in which Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schloemer exhibited her studies conducted in the convent of Dahlem, Germany. In those months the collaboration with the Shrine was remarkable, both for the realization of the exhibition and to assist journalists and television crews, thanks to the involvement of the team of the "Jubilee Communication Project". I also became a photographer.

There was no lack of critics who wrote that it was a tourist promotion operation, simply because these were the kind of things for which I was responsible in the Abruzzo region. I have always felt it was my duty to spread the thesis of Fr. Pfeiffer and therefore the knowledge of the Holy Face, regardless of any effect on tourism, which for that matter was all but impossible in a location not easily accessible and almost completely devoid of hotels and restaurants. All this with very few financial resources, with no comparison whatsoever with the tried and tested organizational machine of the Shroud, in a city like Turin, which for the planned exhibition of 2000 was equipping itself with a budget with the equivalent of more than 5 million dollars (see La Stampa, a daily newspaper in Turin, of March 13, 1999). There were no less important budgets to support subsequent exhibitions. But the issue goes far beyond the economic aspect, Turin being able to count on university institutions, research centers, scholars, publishing houses and the media. Something not even remotely comparable with the small provincial reality of Manoppello. 

Emblematic are the reflections of Saverio Gaeta who after the first short study in 2005, developed further research on the Holy Face after the visit of Benedict XVI (2006), observing frankly - about the hostile attitude of sindonologists - that " it seemed a challenge of a David against the Goliath of the army of sindonologists, who neglect to investigate for themselves the veil of Manoppello, because it disturbs the apparent consolidated conclusions concerning the burial cloths of Jesus" (cf. The Enigma of the Face of Jesus," ed. Rizzoli, 2010). All this without considering that both Fr. Pfeiffer and Sr. Blandina were - and are - to be considered sindonologists.

Meanwhile, another exhibition event - the most important - was being prepared, for the conclusion of the Jubilee year. The organization was being handled directly by the Vatican Apostolic Library and its internal departments.

Catalog for the Vatican exhibition "Il Volto di Cristo"  (The Face of Christ) published by Electa, Milano – 
showing painting by Andrea Mantegna, "Sorrowful Christ", 1493 (partial)

The theme "The Face of Christ" had become central to the Jubilee that was coming to an end.
In early October, the publishing house that was editing the catalog for the exhibition contacted Padre Germano by telephone. A letter followed with a request for a photographic slide of the 18th-century monstrance of the Holy Face. The Shrine, on the advice of Fr. Pfeiffer, in addition to the requested slide,  showed the willingness to also allow  the exhibition of the monstrance itself, the original of the “Relatione Historica” by Fr. Donato da Bomba and the painting depicting the Holy Face, by Fr. Alfonso Maria da Torino di Sangro from 1857. The publishing house having not given any reply, a polite request for clarification was made to  the curator of the exhibition, Professor Giovanni Morello, head of the Vatican Apostolic Library. On November 29th, Prof. Morello responded by apologizing for the misunderstanding with the publishing house and that there was no more time for any activity just a few days before the opening of the exhibition, scheduled for 9 December 2000.

Letter to Fr. Germano from the Publisher of the catalog for the Vatican exhibit

Quite unique circumstances, which suggest the presence of different orientations among the various experts involved, second thoughts and fears about openings considered perhaps excessive towards the Holy Face.   Incidentally Fr. Pfeiffer was part of that core of experts.

Visiting the all-important exhibition it was discovered that there was being displayed the 13th-century antique frame that encompassed the Veronica, part of the Treasury of St. Peter’s.  It was encased between two broken panes of glass. A tangible sign that the image – like that of Manoppello – was visible on both sides. Evidently some of the organizers thought to link the ancient reliquary of Veronica with that of the Holy Face, of which numerous mentions were also present in the descriptive parts of the weighty catalog.  We know that sometime later permission for television footage of the antique frame of the Veronica requested by various television stations was denied. 

Reliquary in the Treasury of St. Peter's Basilica showing two shattered pans of glass which formerly enclosed the Veronica 

At the conclusion of the Great Jubilee, in his letter Tertio Millennium Ineunte, John Paul II wrote that: "If we wanted to trace it back to the essential core that leaves us I would not hesitate to identify it in contemplation of the face of Christ:  considered in his historical features and in his mystery." No mention of the face of Christ had been made in his previously referenced letter Tertio Millennium Adveniente of 10 November 1994

In those years straddling the second and third millennia, extraordinary events happened which saw people and circumstances converging randomly, from different paths, along the return into history of the figure of Christ and his Face, in the prophetic horizon outlined by John Paul II.

Other aspects remain to be explored from that period, including personal events that I have yet to understand myself, that I never thought, in that distant 1998, that I would be so directly involved in the mission of making known the Holy Face.

Antonio Bini at the presentation of the documentary “The Mystery of the Face of Christ” (May 2000). with the German journalist  Christa Kramer to his left

Finally, I would like to recall the message of the then archbishop of Cheti-Vasto, Eduardo Menichelli, who left the diocese in autumn 2004 to go on to the new archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo. To my greeting, the archbishop, now a cardinal, responded by thanking me "with great esteem", urging me: "May you continue at Manoppello always with love and generous commitment".

Archbishop Eduardo Menichelli of Chieti (later named Cardinal) with a Capuchin friar in Manoppello in the 1990's
Not that there was any need for it, having committed to do it in any case, though it gave me pleasure to have confirmation of his strong bond with the Holy Face and of how he appreciated my discreet and constant cooperation with the Capuchins.

("The Fabbrica of St. Peter’s according to its proper laws will continue to look after all that pertains to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles whether for the preservation of the adornment of the edifice as well as for the internal discipline of the caretakers and of the pilgrims that are given access to visit the temple." from the Apostolic Constitution (1998) Pastor Bonus)