Thursday, May 19, 2022

Thousands of People at the May Celebration of the Holy Face


photo by Paul Badde

photo by Paul Badde

Text and photos by Antonio Bini (except as noted)

In 2020 and 2021 the May celebration of the feast of the Holy Face was scaled down due to the pandemic, with the suppression of the procession, which in ordinary times was always attended by many devotees and companies of pilgrims. But the strong desire to maintain, even during the emergency conditions, the centuries-old continuity of the feast had allowed only for the transfer of the Holy Face - by a small civil defense truck - to the church of San Nicola, in the center of the town, to the church where the anonymous pilgrim in the sixteenth century entrusted the Holy Face to Dr. Leonelli.


photo by Paul Badde

The celebration of Mass the past two years was also scaled back and access to the church limited to just 78 people. This year, however, thousands of people arrived for the feast of the Holy Face, on May 15 and May 16, which was certainly not less than in the years before the pandemic. It was difficult to enter the church, with many people having to remain outside. 

We noticed a number of pilgrims coming from abroad, Poland, Germany, France, etc. I managed to exchange some impressions with the religious Benjamin Koulagna (in the photo), who accompanied a group of pilgrims who came to Manoppello from Paris, thanks to the French Catholic organization Etoile Notre Dame. His emotion was palpable. He told me that it was the first time he had seen the Holy Face in person, receiving the feeling that the sacred image almost wanted to speak to him. In his hand he had the text of Benedict XVI's prayer dedicated to the Holy Face and carried a red rose, like other members of the group.

The children dressed as angels returned to open the procession, followed by the band. On the balconies of the centuries old houses of Manoppello, the most precious embroidered blankets were exhibited by families, a number of whom also had a supply of rose petals which they showered down upon the Holy Face as it passed by.

Easily noticeable was the widespread feeling of serenity, peace and festive devotion among the crowds of people who inundated the town and the road connecting with the Shrine, eager to participate in the festival as in the past.

Many mayors of neighboring towns  participated in the event together with the mayor of Manoppello, Giorgio De Luca,. In this period the municipality of Manoppello is engaged in nonstop work to improve the roads and parking near the Shrine, in preparation for the Jubilee of 2025.

The fireworks returned at the halfway mark along the route, both on the journey toward the Church of San Nicola and on the return to the Shrine. The influx of pilgrims was favored by the summer climate of the days.

The provincial Fr. Siro at the microphone and alongside the Rector Fr. Gentili

Fr. Gentili leading the praying of the Rosary

Fr. Siro at the right of the photo with the Handmaids of the Most Precious Blood behind

On both days the provincial father Fr. Matteo Siro was present. The entire Capuchin community was in attendance, led by the rector Fr. Antonio Gentili. On Monday, after the Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Chieti, Mgr. Bruno Forte, with the participation of the parish priest Fr. Girolamo De Rose, Fr. Antonio Gentili and other religious, including the former superiors of the Shrine, Fr. Germano di Pietro and Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, the Holy Face was brought back in procession to the Basilica, through the streets of the town, accompanied by prayers and hymns. 

Fr. Germano di Pietro and Fr. Carmine Cucinelli

To give the opportunity to the largest number of people to follow the event, for the first time the entire procession was broadcast live streaming on the Facebook page of the Basilica of the Holy Face thanks to the footage of Angelo Vorraro, who is part of the Volunteers of the Holy Face (in the photo). And many have connected from various parts of the world with the FB page of the Basilica.  

In the front row Fr. Cucinelli and Fr. di Pietro with the cameraman Angelo Vorraro

Present  also was Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer and the author Paul Badde, engaged as always in the taking of a number of photos of the Holy Face. Among his many photographs I point to one from May15 - with the consent of Paul himself - in which the Holy Face, which never ceases to surprise, seems to present extraordinary similarities with the Face of the Shroud, demonstrating the infinite changeability of the exceptional image.

Photo by Paul Badde

It was almost as if the celebration had blissfully canceled the difficult period of the pandemic and Manoppello is ready to welcome the great flows of pilgrims as was the case until a few years ago.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Feast of the Holy Face Began This Morning at the Basilica


Link to a Video, recorded at the Basilica this morning, of the Complete Service of the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Face which was broadcast live on the Facebook page of the Basilica  Morning

The video below was filmed this morning by Ramona Robben


Photo by Paul Badde

Friday, May 13, 2022

Feast of the Holy Face in Manoppello Sunday May 15 and Monday May 16


 Procession in 2016 from the Basilica of the Holy Face to the Parish Church of San Nicola di Bari

Sunday May 15

7am Solemn Exposition of the Holy Face in the Basilica

10am Solemn Mass at the Basilica presided by Father Antonio Gentili, Rector of the Basilica, followed by the procession towards the Parish Church of San Nicola di Bari.

11:30am Solemn Mass at the church of San Nicola da Bari concelebrated by Father Matteo Siro, Capuchin provincial, Father Antonio Gentili, Rector of the Basilica and Father Girolomo, pastor of the church of San Nicola di Bari

Midnight - Solemn Vigil led by the parish choir

Monday May 16

10am Closing of the Festivities with Solemn Mass by Archbishop Bruno Forte, Father Matteo Siro, Father Antonio Gentili, and Father Girolomo, followed by the procession through the streets of Manoppello and back towards the Basilica.  

Monday, April 18, 2022

Video of Easter Vigil Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello


The Easter Vigil Mass was presided by Fr. Antonio Gentili, OFM, Cap., the rector of the Shrine.  Here is a link to the video posted on the Facebook page of the Shrine.

At the 40 minute 20 second mark, during the singing of the Gloria Fr. Gentili brings the monstrance with the Holy Face to the altar where it was displayed for the remainder of the service which ended with a solemn blessing of the congregation with the sacred image of the Holy Face. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Easter Vigil at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello Including a Blessing with the Holy Face


The Solemn celebration of the Easter Vigil at the Shrine, beginning at 10pm local time (1pm PST) will include a solemn blessing with the Holy Face, the first moment of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Altar of the Holy Face at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland

Sunday, April 10, 2022



His extraordinary years "at the service of the True Face of Jesus"

Text and photos by Antonio Bini


Father Carmine Cucinelli has reached  the milestone of fifty years of priesthood at the service of the universal Church. Born in Trasacco (L'Aquila) on October 20, 1946, he entered the Order of the Capuchin friars at a young age, in a region of Marsica characterized at the time by the presence of numerous friaries. After his priestly ordination on March 28,  1972, he was assigned to the friary of Our Lady of Pietraquaria in Avezzano. In the following years he was transferred first to the Shrine of the Madonna dell'Incoronata at Vasto then to Penne and afterwards to Caramanico Terme. In 1989 he became superior of San Francesco di Paola in Sulmona, where he also assumed the functions of parish priest. In 2004 Father Carmine was appointed superior of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello, precisely in the years in which the sacred image, until then an expression of local devotion, became the center of studies and research that was bounding into the international arena.

Father Carmine was part of a very intense phase of the life of the Shrine. In his first editorial for the shrine’s magazine Il Volto Santo di Manoppello (n. 2/2004) Father Carmine, while admitting to experiencing some sadness at having had to leave Sulmona, wrote that he was nevertheless "happy to begin the new experience that leads me to be at the service of the True Face of Jesus". It is interesting to reread the sense of wonder he felt while immersing himself for the first time in the reality of the Shrine of the Holy Face in  those days of early September 2004, quite different from the life of other friaries. Sensations expressed with his usual frankness and simplicity, giving the measure of the vitality of the Shrine just left by Father Germano Di Pietro: "I have arrived" - wrote Father Carmine - "at a time full of ferment. I found a coming and going of people of all kinds: journalists, photojournalists, scholars, prelates, researchers and simple pilgrims ... all full of interest in the sacred relic, to be studied and venerated".

Father Carmine would immediately insert himself into the dynamics "exploding" around the Holy Face which emanated from the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, placing himself totally "at the service of the True Face of Jesus" remaining for over sixteen years in Manoppello.

On the first of September 2006, two years after his arrival, he received Pope Benedict XVI. A historical visit, especially because the German pope by his mere presence was in fact confirming the theses which identified the Holy Face with the legendary Roman Veronica, supported with strength and rigor by the studies of the late Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, professor of Christian art at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In the following years there were many commitments in Italy and especially abroad, with missions to the United States, the Philippines, Canada, Mexico, Poland and France. Especially in the Philippines, the most Catholic country in Asia, the extraordinary results in the dissemination of the Holy Face spread from there to other countries of the continent. And then with humility and tireless dedication he faced many new experiences, such as the preparation of the exhibition on the Holy Face in Lourdes, at the request of the local bishop Most Reverend Philipp Perrier or in the group effort for the Rimini exhibition of 2013, (then replicated in New York in 2014), curated by Raffaella Zardoni and the Association "Il Volto Ritrovato" of Milan. And then conferences, meetings as well as the familiarization with the use of the web and social networks to reach the increasingly large audience of faithful and also his commitment to learning the English language. Intense years, lived with a Franciscan spirit and maintaining a willing and always positive attitude towards those who turned to him. A presence that was always discreet but at the same time effective. Then in October 2020 the transfer to the Shrine of Our Lady of Splendor in Giulianova (Teramo), following the principle of rotation established by the Capuchin Order. His figure remains however linked to the Holy Face of Manoppello, whose knowledge and devotion he has nurtured as never before, maintaining contacts with numerous priests and groups of devotees active in the countries touched by his mission.

The Basilica of Saint Cesidio and Saint Rufino

Fr. Carmine on the day of his priestly ordination

His 50 years of priesthood were celebrated on March 19 in the ancient thirteenth-century Basilica dedicated to the martyrs Saint Cesidio and Saint Rufino of Trasacco, a village in the region of Marsica, precisely where his priestly life began in 1972. A solemn ceremony attended by numerous priests, including the former provincials of Lazio and Abruzzo, Fr. Giovanni Ferri, Fr. Domenico Del Signore and Fr. Carmine Ranieri, the episcopal vicar of the Diocese of Marsi, Mgr. Francesco Tudini and the parish priest Don Francesco Grassi, as well as twelve novices from Viterbo.

Fr. Carmine Ranieri

For health reasons, Matteo Siro, who leads the new province of the Capuchins of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, could not participate, delegating Father Carmine Ranieri to give the homily.

The former provincial wanted to recall some significant periods of the priestly life of Father Carmine, not failing to emphasize some of his personal characteristics. Father Ranieri highlighted some significant experiences of Fr. Carmine’s priestly ministry, recalling his first years dedicated to the promotion of vocations at the Shrine of the Madonna dell’Incoronata of Vasto, where he had been assigned by his superiors because of his personable nature, as he was led to approach others in a humble, open, simple, fraternal, familiar way, then in Sulmona, where he continued to devote his energies to the parish reality,  always with his spirit of meekness and with the ability to approach others, with a good and familiar approach.

Then the lengthy period spent in Manoppello where Father Carmine - said Father Carmine Ranieri - "was able to reinvigorate his experience of God. Where the Face of the crucified and risen Christ is kept, he was able to revive this primordial experience, the one that we heard in the Book of Exodus narrated in today's Gospel regarding Moses and his encounter with the burning bush, with the very source of life, of the love that allows us to renew our mission towards others". He concluded by thanking Fr. Carmine affectionately for his priestly service to the Church, always marked "by his welcoming and meek spirit", which has allowed so many people to find themselves at ease, bringing them closer to the Lord.

Not a conventional discourse but an expression of an active and fraternal relationship. It was in fact  Fr. Carmine Ranieri, then Provincial, who supported the two international missions of the Holy Face and considered the opportunity to launch the process of canonization of Father Domenico da Cese, following the important work carried out by the unforgettable  Br.  Vincenzo D'Elpidio and also by  Father Carmine Cucinelli himself and the vice postulator Father Eugenio Di Gianberardino.

At the end of the celebration, the parish priest Fr Francesco Grassi read the Apostolic Blessing of Pope Francis, sent through the Polish cardinal papal almoner Konrad Krajewski, with the hope - welcomed by the general applause - that "his ministry will continue to be an icon and transparency of that of Christ". A clear and unequivocal message.

The next day, Father Carmine’s priestly jubilee was celebrated in the Shrine of Our Lady of Splendor of Giulianova, together with his Capuchin brothers and the wider community of the town on the Adriatic.

The cycle of celebrations ended in Manoppello on Saturday March 26. At the Shrine where Father Carmine admitted to having left a piece of his heart, he was welcomed by his successor, Father Antonio Gentili, who thanked him for having wished to celebrate the anniversary before the Holy Face and in the community that for so many years he had served. An emotional crowd waited to greet him, hug him again and also give him gifts.

Father Carmine had recalled – in Trasacco – his ties with the church of San Cesidio, where he was baptized, the town, his parents, teachers, childhood friends and the Capuchins who first welcomed him. He thanked his sister Anna for organizing the "celebrations" for the 50th priestly anniversary,  It was through Anna that he had come to know that their mother Bernardina, throughout her life had expressed a number of times her intention to have the anniversary properly celebrated.

In Manoppello Father Carmine thanked the Lord for having wanted him at His service for all these years, to dispense His gifts and graces to many faithful in the various pastoral activities he carried out, without ever neglecting the local community and invoking His blessing and mercy for the dead, in particular for the priests and confreres who served the Shrine,  Father Pfeiffer, Brother Vincenzo D'Elpidio, Mario Ferrante (member of the Choir) and many devoted friends and benefactors, including the unforgettable Daisy Neves.


With palpable emotion he admitted that he had lived a very special period in Manoppello.  He then recalled his first days there and the sight of the faithful intent on climbing the stairs with devotion, kneeling, and then descending with tears in their eyes. "I understood that it was a mysterious and in many ways an inexplicable sacred object," said Father Carmine. He recalled the first time that, after having become well informed about the sacred image, he had placed himself for a long time in solitary contemplation of the Holy Face, noting that "the image imprinted in the transparent veil, changed its appearance, I observed that from wherever I put myself He looked at me as a living person. I felt a great joy and I understood that it was truly an image not made by human hands, a precious gift left to us by Jesus in his perpetual memory. So I saw Jesus in his sudarium, or as Simeon said:  my eyes have seen the salvation of our God! Subsequently, I had many confirmations from scholars and researchers that things were just like that, so that I was convinced that here in Manoppello there is a relic of Jesus, the most important of Christianity".

His desire to make the Veil known was the natural consequence, making his own the perspective of the "contemplation of the face of Christ" requested for the third millennium by Pope John Paul II with the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Ineunte, released on  January 6, 2001, at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000,

He recalled for all the visit to the shrine of Benedict XVI, the growth in the number of pilgrims from all over the world, up to 1400 buses in 2007 and the accomplishment of projects that led to the improvement of the reception of the faithful and religious, such as the new confessionals and the expansion of the sacristy, to accommodate also substantial groups of religious. And then the memory of Mrs. Daisy Neves who supported the work of spreading devotion to the Holy Face beyond Italy developed by the two missions of 2014 and 2015. In this regard, one cannot help but mention the significant presence - in the celebration of Trasacco - of Fr Danny Flores and Fr Bonifacio (Ted) Lopez, priests of the Diocese of Rome who accompanied Fr. Carmine in the international missions of 2014 and 2015, becoming themselves active disseminators of the Holy Face.

Fr. Lopez, Fr. Carmine and Fr. Flores

Among the works carried out he also wished to remember the work of collecting testimonies and  documents for the start of the process of canonization of Father Domenico da Cese, a prophetic and extraordinary figure of devotion to the Holy Face.

 Very emotional, he admitted several times that: " I still have my heart in Manoppello ", thanking the community for the good that that they had wished him and for their prayers for his recovery from Covid-19 that a year ago saw him face very difficult moments.

At the end of the Mass before the blessing he addressed a heartfelt thanks to Father Antonio Gentili, rector of the shrine, to Brother Valerio Di Bartolomeo, guardian of the Capuchin fraternity of Manoppello and to all the friars. He publicly thanked the rectors who  preceded him  (Fr. Germano and Fr. Luciano), all the collaborators, from the first hour to today and in particular, Fabrizio Tricca, the late Tonino D'Intinosante, Antonio Bini, Sister Blandina, Paul Badde, Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, Saverio Gaeta, Sister Petra-Maria Steiner , the Sisters Handmaids of the Most Holy Blood, the various publishers, journalists, Italian and foreign writers, bloggers, including Raymond Frost, Tamara Klapatch, and all those who animated the liturgy: the conductor Nicola Costantini and the choir of the basilica.

Fr. Carmine embracing Fabrizio Tricca

Fr. Carmine with some of the Sisters Handmaids of the Precious Blood

And finally, he expressed his hope that the Holy Face will awaken new priestly vocations and religious life.



Some concluding (and personal) reflections from Antonio Bini


I remember that in the first days of September 2004 I wrote a short letter to Father Carmine Cucinelli declaring myself willing to continue the positive collaboration started since 1998 with his predecessor Germano Di Pietro. He called me and it was easy to establish a climate of trust and resume the journey in the common goal of disseminating and making known the Holy Face. I believe that one of the merits of Father Carmine, as indicated by Father Carmine Ranieri during the homily given in Trasacco, is to be found in his welcoming and mild spirit, and therefore also open, which allowed him to involve and motivate in the "mission" different people from Italy and abroad, with different professional backgrounds and cultures, united by devotion to the Holy Face, often putting them in relation to each other, allowing for the Shrine to travel along paths not even remotely imaginable before. I think I can say this by having followed and accompanied him in various initiatives, some to be considered almost unrepeatable. I can say this from personal experience, considering that only a few years before I did not even know the Holy Face, despite living only 30 km away.


In recent years I have met on several occasions scholars and journalists who expressed amazement at the importance of the Holy Face and what was being done to promote its knowledge, despite the small fraternity of the Capuchins present in Manoppello, even less than in other friaries.


While being aware of the crisis of vocations that affects the Church and also the Capuchin Order, I believe that the custody of what is increasingly and authoritatively considered the "most important relic of Christianity" deserves more appropriate consideration. There are many open questions, networks of relationships, relationships developed over the years with scholars and groups of faithful scattered around the world that are not easily transferable in the short term.


I was struck by the circumstance that saw Carmine, even during the two months of hospitalization for Covid, continue to be a "point of reference" from his hospital bed - thanks to technologies - for many followers of the Holy Face in Italy and abroad known during his missions whom he continues to address, even if only for a word,  with advice, encouragement. This happened, with a heroic spirit of service, even in periods when the severity of his health conditions did not even allow him to speak. Still in the convalescence phase, on July 3, 2021, he did not miss the third enthronement of the Holy Face in Rome, in the church of San Francesco Saverio, better known as the Oratory of Caravita, thanks to the will of Don Bonifacio (Ted) Lopez. The replica of the Holy Face had previously been blessed by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Currently he follows at a distance the preparatory phase of an upcoming enthronement scheduled for August 6, coinciding with the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, at St. James Parish in  Abbotsford, a Canadian city of 130 thousand inhabitants in the Vancouver area, with the full consent of the parish priest Father William Ashley and thanks to the impulse of the Canadian Apostolate of the Veil of Manoppello, a group of passionate devotees composed of Ethelyn David, Leila Gueco, Norma Reyes and Corgie Bernardo, who have already fostered enthronements in the Immaculate Conception Church of the city of Delta and in the church of St. Patrick in Vancouver. It was the same Father Carmine, during the mission to Canada in September 2015 to encourage the group, then linked to the American Daisy Neves.


We hope that Father Carmine can continue to collaborate with the community of Manoppello, while remaining in his present post, ensuring his presence "from a distance", also experiencing within the reality of the life of a friar the formula tested in the last two years to overcome the distances and break down the isolation imposed by Covid. This action "from a distance" could continue to interconnect the activities already set in motion in foreign countries, especially to avoid pauses and discontinuities in the relationships that ought to favor more than ever the united involvement of communities around the world - bonded by the Holy Face – to resume the journey towards the next Jubilee of 2025.


Text of blessing of Pope Francis upon Fr. Carmine


His holiness Francis imparts from his heart the apostolic blessing to Father Carmine Cucinelli of the Order of Capuchin Franciscans Minor on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination, and while extending it to his family, his confreres and all who unite themselves to his offering of thanksgiving for the gift of the priesthood invokes a copious celestial reward for the good he has accomplished through it and a new outpouring of lights and gifts of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that his ministry may continue to be an icon and transparency of that of Christ who”did not come to be served but to serve and to give his own life for the many” (Matthew 20:28)

L’Aquila March 18 1972 – Trasacco (AQ) Church of Saint Cesedio Martyr, March 19, 2022


From the Vatican                                Konrad Krajewski

                                                                Cardinal Almoner

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Father Carmine Cucinelli to Celebrate 50 Years of Priesthood

Congratulations and many sincere thanks to Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M., Cap. who tomorrow March 18 marks the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.   

This Saturday there will be a celebration in his hometown - Trasacco - in the church where he celebrated his first Mass. In attendance will be approximately twenty friars and two provincials of the Capuchin Order along with his relatives and a small number of friends. After Mass Antonio Bini will make a power point presentation on Fr. Carmine's priestly life and especially on his 17 years at the helm of the Shrine of the Holy Face.

The next day, Sunday,  Fr. Carmine will continue to celebrate the occasion at the Shrine of the Madonna dello Splendore in Giulianova and the following Saturday at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello.