Monday, January 17, 2022

Omnis Terra 2022 - a Rite that is Repeated With History and Devotion

 



text and photos by Antonio Bini

The rite of Omnis Terra returned to the Basilica of the Holy Face inspired by the procession of the Veronica established on the second Sunday following the Epiphany of the year 1208 by Pope Innocent III. In introducing the celebration, Archbishop Bruno Forte turned his thoughts to the late Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer who contributed so much to the promotion of the knowledge of the Holy Face, sharing the historical reasons for the re-enactment of the rite and also thanking Sister Blandina and all those who are committed to the study and dissemination of the Holy Face. During the homily he recalled: "It was the year 1208, the second Sunday after the Epiphany, called Omnis Terra from the words of the Psalm of the Introit" Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi! " ("All the earth adore you, O God, and sing hymns to you" (Ps 65,4), when Pope Innocent III instituted the procession to carry the veil of the Holy Face (the so-called Veronica) from St. Peter's Basilica to the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Here the Bishop of Rome wanted to bless with the precious relic the sick people of the ancient Pilgrim's Hospital, which he himself had rebuilt and upgraded. With that gesture Pope Innocent intended to highlight the healing power of the face of the Savior  when contemplated with faith, and the fruitfulness of the prayer of adoration and intercession before that Face, which we recognize as present on the veil of byssus venerated in Manoppello ”.

 

And the Archbishop's homily concluded: "As Mary in front of the face of her Son dying out of love for us, so may each of us in front of the Holy Face preserved in this place obtain to die with Jesus to the old man, to rise with Him to be a new creature, anticipating in the fragility of time something of the infinite beauty of heaven, which in the Holy Face venerated here is revealed and promised with the discretion and humility of the love which is victorious over evil and death. Amen."


These statements are in continuity with what has been expressed by other church officials since the first commemoration, which took place in Rome on  January 16 and 17,  2016, as part of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of the Face of Mercy  in 2016 and then in Manoppello in the following years, with the reiterated identification of the Holy Face with the legendary Veronica. Among these were  Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Papal Household and private secretary of Benedict XVI, Archbishop Edmond H. Farhat and Msgr. Americo Ciani, canons of San Pietro, cardinals Kurt Koch and Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Mons. Bruno Forte had already been present together with Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, in the 2019 edition.

 

At the conclusion of the solemn Mass, concelebrated by Fr. Matteo Siro, minister of the "Immaculate Conception" Seraphic Province of the Capuchin Friars Minor of Abruzzo, Lazio and Umbria, by Fr. Antonio Gentili, rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face, in the presence of various priests, including Fr. Carmine Ranieri, former provincial and Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, former rector of the Shrine and numerous novices, the reliquary of the Holy Face was carried in procession to the threshold of the main door - open for the occasion - for the Omnis Terra blessing to Manoppello and the world. The subsequent final blessing from the altar concluded the celebration. Many people were present for the rite who participated  in prayer and meditation, within the limits of the maximum capacity allowed by the guidelines for containing the pandemic. The celebration was followed via live streaming by devotees from many parts of the world.


Friday, January 14, 2022

Feast of Omnis Terra to be Celebrated on Sunday at the Shrine of the Holy Face

 Each year the feast of Omnis Terra is celebrated in a special way at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello to commemorate the procession with the Holy Veil that Pope Innocent III began in Rome in 1208, from St Peter's Basilica to Santo Spirito in Sassia.  This Sunday, January 16, Archbishop Bruno Forte of the diocese of Chieti-Vasto will be the presider and homilist for the Mass of Omnis Terra at 5pm local time. Also  scheduled to be in attendance is  Fr. Matteo Siro the Capuchins Provincial Minister for Abruzzo, Lazio and Umbria.  The Mass will be live streamed on the Facebook page of the Shrine.  https://www.facebook.com/watch/basilicavoltosanto/   At the conclusion of the celebration there will be a will be a blessing with the reliquary containing the Holy Face. 



Monday, December 20, 2021

Homily by Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M., Cap. from Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J.'s Memorial Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

 




Homily in memory of Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J.

The great family of the faithful and of the devotees of the Holy Face share the sorrow of the relatives and Jesuit confreres of dear Father Heinrich Pfeiffer. We thank the Lord for giving us this brother for 82 years. Our faith tells us that he lives in the God of that life that will never end. In 1939 he was born in Tübingen (Germany) and on last November 26  the Lord called him to himself in the city of Berlin. He went to God full of merits, having carried out well the project assigned to him.

At the age of 24 he entered the Society of Jesus and at the age of 30 he became a priest, graduating at Basel in Art History and teaching the history of Christian Art at the Gregorian University in Rome until a few years ago.

He held various positions of responsibility: director of the Advanced Course for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, member of the editorial staff or of the research committee of various journals. He was the author of a number of books and published essays in a number of magazines in German, Spanish, English and Italian.

Thanks to his deep expertise in the field of Christian Art History, he was invited by many institutions in different parts of the world for courses, seminars and conferences in the field of Art History, Christian Iconography, and Sindonology: from Spain to Mexico, from Austria and Germany to Italy and France. He turned out to have an encyclopedic mind, to be a profound scholar, a researcher full of insights. He had a personality firm and decisive in carrying things forward, courageous in going even against the current. His speech was simple, precise and profound, without superfluous words. He was affable and sociable, always with a smile, sensitive, respectful.

He was a guest a number of times in our friary of Manoppello when he was free from commitments or during the feasts of the Holy Face.  The last time was during the May 2018 festivities, walking along in the procession mixed in with the devotees and pilgrims.

He prayed and meditated a great deal. He spent much time contemplating the Holy Face.

Thanks to him it was possible to organize an exhibition on the Holy Face at the University of Chieti and then in other cities of Italy and even in the French shrine of Lourdes.

Providence wished that he should dedicate himself to the Holy Face of Manoppello, after having dealt with so many images of the Face of Christ and the Holy Shroud of Turin.

In 1979 the Trappist nun Blandina Paschalis Schlömer, after seeing in a magazine the image of the Holy Face, in an article by Renzo Allegri, which recalled the exhibition on the Holy Face in Pescara organized by a Capuchin friar, Father Domenico da Cese, tried to superimpose the Shroud over the Holy Face, and it turned out that there was a perfect match.  All the research material she produced, on the advice of her confessor, she sent to a German Jesuit sindonologist Werner Bulst. It happened that Father Pfeiffer was present when the professor opened the nun's packet and the latter, since he had an expert in the field in front of him, entrusted him with everything to examine it. Fr. Pfeiffer, who had always gone in search of the authentic face of Christ, and in fact, had collaborated with Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini for the annual conferences on the search for the Face of Christ, found the discovery of Sister Blandina intriguing and studied it for some years. In 1986, he went to Manoppello. Arriving at the shrine, as he himself said in an interview, "I was quite astounded, and I recognized in that face that of the famous "Veronica", the cloth preserved in St. Peter's for centuries, which had disappeared during the sack of Rome in 1527". He argued that the Veronica, true icon, or Sudarium, is the face of Jesus imprinted upon the veil at the moment of the resurrection, and that the Shroud, also imprinted in the tomb of Jesus, portrays Christ suffering after his passion. Each of the cloths is a true miracle that challenges scholars and science: Only with faith is it possible to explain this mystery. On his tombstone one could write, paraphrasing the words of St. John the Evangelist inspecting the tomb of Jesus at Easter: "He saw and recognized!"

Father Pfeiffer engaged the writer Paul Badde and the journalist Saverio Gaeta, in the research and dissemination of the Holy Face, each of whom have published several books on the Holy Face.

The news that "The Roman Veronica has been found in Manoppello", he announced during a conference for the foreign press in Rome in 1999: it went around the world at once, causing a lot of sensation and popularity for the mysterious veil and also for the city of Manoppello, so much so that it led the municipal administration of Manoppello to confer honorary citizenship upon the German scholar on December 8, 1999.

But the matter also created hostility and opposition on the part of many Jesuit colleagues and other religious orders, prelates of Rome and other cities which accompanied Father Pfeiffer until his death and that he suffered patiently, convinced that in the small town of Abruzzo there is the greatest treasure in the world.

Despite all this, he became the link in the chain of witnesses who eventually led Pope Benedict XVI to the true Icon of Manoppello on September 1, 2006, where he recognized in the image of the veil "the human face of God," as he said six days later in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The death of Father Pfeiffer was a great loss for everyone and caused much mourning among the people. The first to give the news was his friend and compatriot Paul Badde, followed by Antonio Bini and the rector of the shrine Father Antonio Gentili through means of the internet. The Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Msgr. Bruno Forte wished to commemorate Fr. Pfeiffer with a message of esteem and thanksgiving and the mayor of Manoppello Giorgio De Luca expressed the desire to name a street in the city after him, near the Shrine.

In thanking Father Pfeiffer for all that he has done for our shrine and for us Capuchins we entrust him to the mercy of God so that He may welcome him to contemplate the infinite Beauty of that living and true face that he has already seen as in a mirror in the veil of Manoppello.

Rest in peace.

 

Manoppello, December 15, 2021

 

Fr. Carmine Cucinelli

 

Fr. Carmine at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome for the procession of Omnis Terra, January 16, 2016
photo by Paul Badde

 

On the first anniversary of his death, we commend to the Lord Brother  Vincenzo D'Elpidio, a friend of Father Pfeiffer, a most faithful follower of the Holy Face and promoter of the cause of beatification of the Capuchin Father Domenico da Cese.

Br. Vincenzo d'Elpidio with Paul Badde and Antonio Bini



Sunday, December 19, 2021

THE DEATH OF FR. HEINRICH PFEIFFER, S.J.

 

photo by Paul Badde


His studies led to the identification of the Veronica in the Holy Face of Manoppello

text and photos (except as noted) by Antonio Bini

Heinrich Wilhelm Pfeiffer has died in Berlin. A former professor of Christian art history at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and advisor to the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, under Pope John Paul II, was born in Tübingen in 1939. To him we owe the studies, begun in the nineteen eighties, which led to the identification of the Holy Face of Manoppello as the Veronica, formerly venerated in St. Peter's. His research was inspired by the conclusions of Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer, who demonstrated how the Holy Face was completely superimposable over the face of the Shroud. As he once told me, his entire life professional and religious was dedicated to ascertaining what might be the prototype for the image of Christ developed in art over the centuries. In 1986 he published in Italy the book of essays “L’immagine di Cristo nell’arte” (The Image of Christ in Art), Ed. Città Nuova, emphasizing that it was "a truly inexhaustible theme", and in fact that much remained to be written, beginning the studies that would later interest him.  The book was later published in Germany and Spain. That same year his first trip to Manoppello took place.  In 1991  a first approach to the study of the Holy Face was published in Germany,  under the title  "Das  Turiner  Grabtuch  und  das  Cristusbild"  (The Shroud of Turin and the Image of Christ),  Ed.   Knecht, Frankfurt, written with the German sindonologist (expert on the Shroud) Werner Bulst.

Fr. Pfeiffer, Sr Blandina Paschalis Schlömer, Antonio Bini, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli
at the Byzantine Church, Villa Badessa not far from Manoppello


His research continued in the following years until it was presented during a crowded press conference at the Foreign Press office in Italy on May 31, 1999, which opened new perspectives to the dissemination of the Holy Face in the world, just prior to Great Jubilee of 2000, which had among its objectives also to demonstrate the historical dimension of the figure of Christ. The extraordinary response resulting from the international communication of the news led the Municipality of Manoppello to confer upon the German scholar, on December 8, 1999, the honorary citizenship of the Abruzzo city




In the course of the year 2000 his book Il Volto Santo di Manoppello” was published, Ed. Carsa, Pescara, with a preface by Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, who stated that it was "a publication that decisively contributes to shedding light on the mystery of the Roman Veronica, destination of the “Romei” who in the Middle Ages went on pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles". Cardinal Angelini was the founder and president of the International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ (established in Rome on March 25, 1997), which saw Fr. Pfeiffer as a research partner. Cardinal Angelini, at the time the only native born Roman cardinal, explained that he had wanted to follow the urging of John Paul II directed toward favoring studies on the face of Christ. And John Paul II did not fail to take to heart what emerged from those studies and from his repeated meetings with Cardinal Angelini, so much so as to devote ample space, in the apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, released on January 6, 2001, at the conclusion of the Jubilee, to the theme of the search for and contemplation of the face of Christ as the Church’s mission for the third millennium.  This topic was completely absent from the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, published on November 10, 1994 introducing the upcoming Jubilee.


Cardinal Angelini and Fr. Pfeiffer at the University of Chieti


It was not easy then for Fr. Pfeiffer and even more so for Cardinal Angelini to argue that the Veronica was in Manoppello, first of all because of the long established state of affairs that had led the Vatican to never admit that the legendary image was no longer in Rome, as it had almost  certainly disappeared following the Sack of Rome.   Apart from the conferences, the debate also took place in the media, in publications. I remember how Msgr. Dario Rezza, a canon of St. Peter's Basilica and therefore part of that small number of prelates  chosen by the pope to be in charge of the custody of the relics of St. Peter, had written, to counter the hypotheses of Fr. Pfeiffer, an article entitled  "In St. Peter's Basilica is kept the most famous relic in the world: the "sudarium of Christ",  published in the monthly  30Giorni  n. 3, March 2000, pp. 60-64). In the  following  May issue  no. 5/2000 of the  same magazine, Fr. Pfeiffer  firmly denied this thesis,  replying with an article of his own with the significant title: "But the "Veronica" is in Manoppello". Nothing further regarding the matter appeared in the magazine, although there were subsequent repercussions. Among these I remember how  Fr. Germano Di Pietro, then superior of the Shrine of the Holy Face in the early 2000’s  received the visit of two canons of St. Peter’s who advised him to avoid references to the Veronica, considering that the Shrine’s magazine had begun to deal with the legendary veil, in the light of new elements that documented the evident transformation of the representation of the image during the seventeenth century, first with eyes open and later with them closed.

There was the other front, that of the sindonologists, who certainly did not look kindly upon the rediscovery of another Face of Christ, with clearer features and visible every day.

The initial annual international conferences (organized by Cardinal Angelini’s Institute) were the context in which the scholar expressed the results of his research to an audience of theologians and scholars from all over the world. I recall the coldness, if not hostility, with which he was received at the III International Congress, held in Rome on October 30 and 31,  1999  at the Lateran University, after the clamor of the press conference five months before, where he argued that theology, based exclusively on the sacred scriptures, was poorly prepared for dialogue with the natural sciences. It was Fr. Pfeiffer himself who invited me.   On this occasion he emphasized how the image of the Holy Face and that of the Shroud came from the same tomb and therefore had been in contact. The  journalist and writer Paul Badde, in a statement released in Germany following Fr. Pfeiffer’s death, by the German Catholic Agency CNA, entitled "Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer on the way to the unveiled face of God”,  also recalled how the scholar in the past had been the object of ridicule for having "dared" to affirm that the Veronica had been found in Manoppello and that the Holy Face had been the prototype for the depictions of Christ in art, until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Using plain words, Paul Badde, several years earlier had written in his first book dedicated to the Holy Face, referring to the German Jesuit, "that professor had told me that in the world there was an even more significant image than the Shroud. Only a madman could support such a thing and that’s how Father Pfeiffer was described to me." (cf. P. Badde, Das Muschelseidentuch, Auf der Suche nach dem wahrem Antlitz Jesu, ed. Ullstein, Berlin, 2005).

The scenario of those years was well described later also by Saverio Gaeta: "it seemed a challenge of a David against the Goliath of the army of sindonologists, who avoid questions regarding the veil of Manoppello, because it disturbs the supposedly already settled acquisitions of knowledge surrounding the burial cloths of Jesus"(S. Gaeta, L'enigma del volto di Gesù, ed. Rizzoli, 2010); the book was an expansion of the first edition, distributed along with the Easter 2005 issue of the most widely read Italian Catholic weekly  - "Famiglia Cristiana"- which until then had ignored the topic of the Holy Face).

Also Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, on the occasion of the Memorial service for Fr. Pfeiffer, which took place on December 15, 2021, at the Shrine of Manoppello, in his homily remembered the “ hostility and opposition on the part of many colleagues among the Jesuits and other religious orders in Rome and from other cities, which accompanied Father Pfeiffer until his death and that he suffered patiently, convinced that in this little city in Abruzzo is found the greatest treasure of the world.”  All this, continued Fr. Carmine for having affirmed and documented that “the Veronica, true icon, or Sudarium, is the face of Jesus imprinted on the veil at the moment of the resurrection, and that the Shroud, equally imprinted in the tomb of Christ, depicts Christ suffering after his passion.” Stating that “on his gravestone could be written, paraphrasing the words of St. John the Evangelist during his visit to the tomb of Jesus at Easter:  ‘He saw and recognized!’”.

The Mass, concelebrated by Fr. Giovanni Ferri, Fr. Marian Michniak, Fr. Carmine, assisted by Br. Crispino Valeri.  The music was led by the Handmaids of the Most Precious Blood of Manoppello. 

Fr. Pfeiffer was very attached to the Holy Face and therefore to Manoppello, where he returned many times, combining study and veneration of the sacred image, staying even for days, when his commitments allowed him, always a guest of the Capuchins, as well as to participate in the feasts of the Holy Face or to describe the sacred image to cardinals who requested his presence.  The last time he took part in the May festivities was in 2018, walking along the procession mixed in among the devotees and pilgrims. He was always welcomed with great friendship and esteem by the religious community of the Capuchins who periodically hosted him in the friary.  



 I remember his collaboration with Fr. Carmine Cucinellli, then rector of the Shrine, together with Sister Blandina, for the preparation of the exhibition inaugurated in Lourdes on September 1, 2011 – entitled  "Le Image du Christ a traver le visage de la Vierge"(The Image of Christ through the face of the Virgin), which had been requested by the Msgr. Philippe Perrier, Bishop at that time of the Diocese of Tarbes-Lourdes, after his pilgrimage to Manoppello.

His precious testimony appeared in quite a few issues of the magazine of the Holy Face, as well as in a great many interviews, television appearances in Italy and abroad and in various documentaries. He participated in many conferences.  Noted among these was his presence at the “International Workshop on the Scientific Approach to Acheiropoietos Images”, organized by the ENEA Research Center of Frascati on May 4-6, 2010, dedicated to a comparison of the Shroud, the Holy Face and the Tilma of Guadalupe.

Fr. Pfeiffer at the center of the participants of the conference 

Fr. Pfeiffer delivering his paper


In January 2016, in the year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, he had taken part in the solemn re-enactment of the ancient rite of Omnis Terra, instituted by Innocent III in 1208, leading the procession that went from St. Peter with the replica of the Holy Face to the nearby Basilica of Santo Spirito in Sassia. After 808 years there returned to history the Veronica, which the pope used to bring to the poor and sick of the oldest hospital of Europe.


Ellen Badde, Fr. Pfeiffer, Paul Badde at Santo Spirito in Sassia



In a statement of November 27, 2021, the archbishop of the diocese Chieti-Vasto, Msgr. Bruno Forte, recalled that "Father Heinrich Pfeiffer S.J. was a witness to Christ through the research, knowledge and teaching of the history of the Church. He made a great contribution to the study of the Holy Face of Manoppello. To him goes my thanks and the gratitude of the Church of Chieti-Vasto",  underlining how studying the Holy Shroud and the Face of Manoppello  and  initiating important research on this precious relic,  "which brought about the recognition of it as the "Roman Veronica", promoting the pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI to the Shrine of the Holy Face on September 1, 2006".


Fr. Pfeiffer with Archbishop Bruno Forte in May 2018 at Manoppello


That visit, which was opposed in Vatican circles, so much so that it was announced only about ten days before the first of September,  was an event of extraordinary importance in the history of the Holy Face, of the Shrine and also in the life of Fr. Pfeiffer,  who implicitly saw recognized in it the validity of his years of  research. The photo that portrays the Jesuit with Benedict XVI reveals  the cordiality of that meeting, perhaps even the pleasure and gratitude on the part of the German pope. The Jesuit will write that many years earlier he had hoped for a visit to Manoppello by John Paul II and that he had even delivered to the then Cardinal Ratzinger a report on the Holy Face.


Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Forte, Fr. Pfeiffer at Manoppello, Sept. 1, 2006


We recall that visit through his own words published in the magazine of the Holy Face Il Volto Santo di Manoppello n. 2,December  2006, p. 30 ff.:  "It is of enormous and beneficial significance that the current Pope has seen and contemplated at length with his own eyes this image of Christ which was venerated over the centuries as the most important relic of Christianity. Perhaps this precious object would never have been known by the general public if the late Father Domenico da Cese, Capuchin of the friary to whom the Holy Face was entrusted many centuries ago, had not wanted to show it during the National Eucharistic Congress of 1977, held in Pescara.  Perhaps a Pope would never have gone to visit the Shrine of Abruzzo, if news of this exhibition had not also reached a cell of a Trappist nun named Blandina Paschalis Schlömer at the convent of Maria Frieden in Dahlem in the Eifel region in Germany and perhaps no scholar would have ever dealt with this extraordinary find if the nun had not sent a package containing her research to the sindonologist Fr. Werner Bulst of the Society of Jesus, and if there had not been present at the time of the arrival of that package the undersigned, confrere of the late great German scholar. With her study contained in that package, the Trappist sister wanted to demonstrate nothing less than the perfect overlap of the two images: the Holy Face of Manoppello, and the head that can be seen on the cloth of the Shroud of Turin. And I too have been able to see the accuracy of her experiments and the irrefutable result.  So I made, together with Roman sindonologist friends, the first trip to Manoppello. An extraordinary vision and a new conviction were offered to me at that moment: I had found the Roman Veronica, given up for lost by all scholars. It  was a moment of great emotion."

Some small explanation is necessary to understand the sequence of circumstances briefly recalled  by Fr. Pfeiffer, who alluded to an exhibition on the Holy Face that Fr. Domenico da Cese, of the friary of Manoppello, organized in Pescara during the week of September 1977 in which the National Eucharistic Congress took place in the Adriatic city, which saw the last pastoral visit of Pope Paul VI, on September 17, 1977.

 


Father Domenico organized a small exhibition, in rooms available to the Capuchins, to make up for an oversight by the organizers of the Eucharistic Congress who had completely ignored the Holy Face. Some information about that exhibition arrived in the following months to the journalist and writer Renzo Allegri, a well-known biographer of Padre Pio, who traveled to Manoppello the following year, publishing his article on the Holy Face in the Italian weekly publication Gente of September 30,1978, a few days after the death of Fr. Domenico. The same article was translated and published the following month in the German-speaking Swiss Catholic magazine  Das Zeichen Mariens, which arrived in the German convent where Sr. Blandina had been devoting herself to the Shroud of Turin. She began to study it also in relation to that Holy Face of which she previously had been unaware.. Another fortuitous circumstance was the presence of Fr. Pfeiffer in Germany, in the study of the Jesuit Werner Bulst  (1913-1995),then considered the most authoritative German sindonologist.

On that occasion the elderly Fr. Bulst gave to Fr. Pfeiffer the documentation sent by the nun, telling him  "You are (working) in Rome, and therefore you can take care of it". And Fr. Pfeiffer gave years of study and research to understand the mysterious image and to bring it back into the history of Christianity.

Studying the Holy Face, the German Jesuit became aware of the figure of Fr. Domenico da Cese. The capuchin himself, endowed with supernatural powers, according to many testimonies,  had arrived empirically, in the early seventies, to the same conclusions as Fr. Pfeiffer,  asserting the thesis that the cloth of the Shroud and that of the Holy Face came from the tomb of Jesus.   Fr. Domenico wrote  his reflections not in essays and magazines but on simple holy cards that he distributed to promote the knowledge and veneration of the Holy Face. Fr. Pfeiffer also knew about the relationship between Fr. Domenico and Padre Pio, as I could tell from several conversations I had with him over the years, during which he was led to reflect upon the fate of the Capuchin, who died in Turin, where he had gone for the exposition of the Shroud. Pfeiffer reported on some occasions, to people close to him, that he had noticed a friar, of powerful build, among the crowd visiting the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin on September 12,  1978, where the scholar was to participate in a conference on the Shroud.  On the evening of that same day, Fr. Domenico was hit by a car, dying five days later in the hospital, due to the serious injuries he suffered. Years  later,  Fr. Pfeiffer would recognize that friar while studying the Holy Face in Manoppello. With regard to Fr. Domenico,  the Congregation for the Causes of Saints granted a nihil Obstat to the process of beatification  (2015), which has yet to be opened, despite the generous work of gathering testimonies undertaken by Brother Vincenzo d'Elpidio,  now deceased, who was his friend and for many years the guide for thousands of devotees and spiritual children of Fr. Domenico.

                                                                        *****

"Manoppello mourns Father Pfeiffer," headlined Il Centro, the most widespread regional newspaper in Abruzzo, in an article by Walter Teti,  who had also had the opportunity to know him personally,  to present the reactions to the news of the death of the German Jesuit,  recalling  the long relationship between the German scholar and the town of Abruzzo.  A feeling of gratitude of which the mayor himself, Giorgio De Luca, had expressed, who announced  the desire to dedicate a street to him, possibly, right on the hill of the Capuchins to which Fr. Pfeiffer had certainly shown the way to millions of people.  Fr. Pfeiffer himself, would have liked to remain buried forever in Manoppello. A desire that was also confirmed by Sister Blandina.

Known, respected and loved by all, as can also be seen from the messages that appeared on the Facebook page of the Shrine and on other pages, starting with that of his historic University, which in a message of condolence  underlined how  Fr. Pfeiffer "has enriched the Pontifical Gregorian University with his academic dedication and his passion for Christian art for over 40 years  .. "Recalling how "famous (are) his studies on the Sistine Chapel and on the Holy Face of Manoppello" concluding with the hope:  "may he contemplate the Infinite Beauty".

He was a person very dear to me. I had met him in December 1998 on the occasion of a conference on the Holy Face that was held in the hall of the then Casa del Pellegrino – to which I had been invited, being the managing director, at that time, of tourism in Abruzzo and heading up a project for the development of tourism for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In front of a scarce audience he showed and described many slides, as was used back then, explaining the Holy Face and its history through the oldest images of Jesus, even before the Veronica (vera –  ikon) arrived in Rome. From then on we frequently met together through the years. I even met him several times at the Gregorian University, where I always saw his willingness to offer explanations, discussing together various matters. 

Unfortunately, a few years ago he suffered some health problems while teaching summer courses at the University of Puebla, Mexico. Slowly he had recovered. Two years ago came the decision for him to stay at the residence for elderly Jesuits near Berlin.

On the first of December 2019 I received his last short email in which he updated me about his arrival at the Jesuit residence in  Kladow, near Berlin, writing to me:  "Dear Antonio, I don’t know if you might sometime have a chance to come to Berlin. I always look forward to seeing you and greet you and yours with inclusive blessings. Your Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer."  A last  unforgettable  testimony of humility and affection for me and my family,  having shared with him a not easy path – especially  during the first years – of dissemination of the knowledge of the Holy Face. In the following months no reply came to my emails with which I had informed him of the latest important happenings.

I would like to recall how in the summer of 2018 he was invited by Giovanni Gazzaneo,  editor of "Luoghi dell'Infinito",monthly magazine of the newspaper Avvenire, to write an article on the Holy Face for a special issue  for the month of October,  in conjunction with the "Week of Beauty: Your face I seek", which would be held in Grosseto from October 19 to 28,  where a copy of  Manoppello's veil would be exhibited, enclosed in a silver reliquary dating from 1902. The article, "The veil of secrets: the enigma of Manoppello", was probably his last published writing, in which one can read an effective synthesis of his long path of research, with several parallel readings on the historical level that began by stating that "in a small town in Abruzzo one of the greatest treasures in the world is hidden",  with the concluding reference,  to the visit of Benedict XVI and, as well, to what was stated by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg  Gänswein, in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, at the end of the procession that on January 16, 2016  recalled  the rite of Omnis Terra:  "  It is a copy of that ancient original that Pope Innocent IIII showed to pilgrims and that for four hundred years has been kept in Abruzzo, on the Adriatic, in a peripheral area of Italy, from where today for the first time it has been brought back to the place where its public worship began." Fr.  Pfeiffer was among the concelebrants, along with Fr. Carmine Cucinelli and other religious, including two authoritative canons of St. Peter's, the Lebanese archbishop Edmond H. Farhat and  Msgr. Americo Ciani.

Fr. Pfeiffer second concelebrant from the right during Omnis Terra Mass


Veronica had  reappeared in the history of the Church, after a long and troubled series of events. "But all research is always only a debtor to one thing only: the truth," wrote the unforgettable Fr. Pfeiffer.

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