Monday, February 27, 2012

Padre Pio, Padre Domenico da Cese and the Holy Face of Manoppello

By Paul MacLeod (Belmont, Victoria, Australia)

this article originally appeared in the December issue of the magazine "The Voice of Padre Pio" and also has appeared in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth in Australia. Thanks to Mr. MacLeod for allowing me to publish his important contribution to the knowledge of the Holy Face of Manoppello in which he summarizes the most important elements of the Holy Face and highlights Padre Pio's devotion to the Holy Face, and the special last visit Padre Pio made to the Holy Face and to his friend and fellow Capuchin --the Servant of God Fr. Domenico da Cese - the apostle of the Holy Face.

In September, 1968, Padre Pio’s life was nearing its end. He was 81, and for two months he had not been well. But September 20 was the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, and his prayer groups had gathered at his friary at San Giovanni Rotondo to celebrate that event.
He said Mass that day, but was unable to the following day. However, he gathered the last of his strength on Sunday, September 22, to say Mass in a church packed with pilgrims. At the end, he nearly collapsed and had to be helped from the altar.
A little earlier that morning, a fellow Capuchin and friend of Padre Pio, Fr Domenico da Cese, went to open the church at Manoppello, more than 200 kilometres away to the north, in the province of Abruzzi.
Inside the church he found Padre Pio on his knees, his head in his hands, before the image known as the Holy Face.
Padre Pio said to him: “I do not trust myself any more. Pray for me. Goodbye until we meet again in Paradise.”
Within 24 hours, Padre Pio died in his cell in the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo.
Padre Pio was known for his not-infrequent bilocation – being in two places at once – even attending the canonisation of St Therese of Lisieux in St Peter’s basilica in 1925.
Pope Benedict XVI was to visit the image at Manoppello nearly 40 years later, but by a more mundane method of transport, by helicopter.
But why did Padre Pio and the Pope choose to visit the Holy Face?
Since 1660, the church at Manoppello has contained an ancient piece of a rare cloth known as byssos, or sea-silk, a gossamer-thin and transparent fabric woven from fibre from mussels, once used in Egypt to cover the faces of dead Pharaohs.
This cloth bears the image of the face of a bearded man with open eyes, a slightly opened mouth and a bruised left cheek. It was believed locally to be what was once known as the Veil of Veronica.
In St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, one of the four massive columns supporting the dome has long been known as the “Veronica pillar”. It features a statue of Veronica with a cloth bearing an image of the face of Christ and a bas-relief of an angel also displaying the image.
Within the pillar is a treasury in which is kept what is claimed to be the cloth with which a woman named Veronica wiped the face of Jesus on His way to Calvary.
This cloth, contained in a reliquary and shown to the people in St Peter’s on Passion Sunday each year, is black with brown areas and no visible image. It was placed in the pillar in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII.
Where did it come from?
Well, the existence of a portrait of Christ “not made by human hands” had been known since the sixth century, and from 705 it had been kept in its own chapel in the old St Peter’s, built by Constantine.
It became known as the “vera eikon”, or “true image”, and the name “Veronica” appears to have been applied in the Middle Ages to a woman whom Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich names as Seraphia in her account of her visions of the Passion.
How did it get to Rome?
This question is discussed at length in a recent book by a German journalist, Paul Badde. He suggests that the cloth was, in fact, “the napkin which had been on His head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (Jn 20:7).
Badde recalls a tradition that a cloth with the face of Jesus was taken by the Apostle Jude after the Ascension to King Abgar of Edessa, a prominent city at the time, some 600 kilometres from Jerusalem and now known as Urfa, in Turkey. The king was immediately cured of an illness that had kept him bedridden. Another very old tradition says that the Greeks who came to Philip asking “to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21) had been sent by Abgar.
The cloth apparently remained in Edessa, and was hidden in the city wall when the city was under attack. It was rediscovered in 525 and taken to Constantinople, then to Genoa and finally to Rome.
So what is the cloth at Manoppello?
As already stated, the “image” now kept in the pillar in St Peter’s was placed there in 1625, after rebuilding work.
But it was – it seems – not the image that had been venerated there for centuries. It had disappeared, probably in 1506, stolen from the frame in which it was held by two sheets of glass. The frame, broken glass and all, is still to be seen in the treasury at St Peter’s. (There are fragments of glass in the cloth at Manoppello.)
Interestingly, Pope Urban VIII promptly issued a decree ordering the destruction of any copies of the “Veronica”, unwilling to admit that one of the most precious relics in Christendom had vanished.
Meanwhile, an anonymous pilgrim arrived in Manoppello in 1508 with the cloth wrapped in a package and gave it to a Dr Leonelli who was sitting on a bench in front of the church. He went into the church and unwrapped it, but on going out he could not find the person who had brought it. The cloth remained in the Leonelli family and then passed to another doctor who gave it to the Capuchins, who have held it ever since.
Badde points out in his book that the dimensions of the cloth at Manoppello mean it would not fit in the frame now used in St Peter’s to hold what certainly appears to be a forgery.
Perhaps because of the fact that St Peter’s still has what is purported to be the “Veil of Veronica”, little attention had been drawn to the image at Manoppello.
But Fr Domenico da Cese believed it should be better known, and in 1977 he took a large photograph of it to a Eucharistic congress in Pescara, the nearest large centre. Then things started moving.
A journalist from Switzerland wrote an article about it, which came to the attention of a Trappistine nun in Germany, Sister Blandina Schömer. Fascinated by the image, she obtained permission to move to Italy and devote herself to research on it, which she has continued up until the present.
Meanwhile, Fr Domenico had gone to Turin in 1978 for an exposition of the Shroud there, and was killed when he was struck by a car after leaving the cathedral. He was reputed to have the stigmata and cures have been attributed to his intercession, so that moves are now being made to begin the Cause of his beatification.
The principal findings of the research by Sister Blandina and others are that:
* the cloth is so thin and delicate it would be impossible to paint on it;
* the image is visible from both sides;
* when superimposed on the image of the face on the Shroud of Turin, the image of Manoppello matches exactly.
The conclusion is that the Holy Face of Manoppello is very likely the cloth “rolled up by itself”, found by Peter and John in the tomb on the first Easter morning.
The visit to Manoppello by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 was the first journey of his pontificate inside Italy upon which he himself had decided. His homilies have increasingly contained references to the Face of Jesus.
And Padre Pio, canonised in 2002? Did he make one last visit to look upon the Face of the Man whose wounds he had borne for 50 years before entering into the eternal vision of his glorified Lord?

- Paul MacLeod

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Symposium Of European and African Bishops Concludes at Manoppello

The Symposium Of European and African Bishops Concludes at Manoppello

by Antonio Bini; photos by Antonio Bini and Paul Badde

Bishops on the Via Crucis leading to the Shrine of the Holy Face

Pescara - With a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy Face the second Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE)has drawn to a close.
"Evangelization today: communion and pastoral cooperation between Africa and Europe" was the theme of the Symposium which began on February 13, 2012 in Rome at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, with discourses by Cardinals Polycarp Pengo and Angelo Bagnasco, Chairman of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and Vice-President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE)respectively.

The days of study and discussion were intended to understand and reflect on the pressing problems of the Church on the two continents, in a climate of friendship that will be useful for better cooperation on issues of peace, immigration, religious freedom and combating prostitution. For the Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, "European and African bishops want to face together the challenge of the new evangelization, living in a more intense way our brotherhood in mission. A collaboration that is based on mutual exchanges. While in the past many missionaries left Europe to go to Africa, now we are seeing an opposite movement, with priests, nuns and lay religious coming to Europe from Africa. We discovered many common concerns and we are committed to working together in the field of pastoral care, health, education, and social problems. Moreover, our continent needs an injection of ecclesial vitality and this vitality can come from the young Churches of Africa."

Along the same line, the Senegalese Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, who stated "The African immigrants will help Europe to discover for the future new youthfulness and freshness in the faith. Future exchanges between the bishops will address issues such as education, the fight against poverty, health, training of leadership teams, the dialogue between religions, the arms trade, human trafficking, external debt and the exploitation by the mining companies."

This path of commitment to communion and solidarity of people coming from so many different worlds comes from belonging to the same Church, united in Christ.

This is the deeper meaning to be found in the final pilgrimage to Manoppello.

It is the Pope himself who, the day before, while meeting with the bishops attending the Symposium who did not hide the complexity of the challenges facing the Church today, starting with that of religious indifference. Recalling the moral authority and credibility that must support them in their pastoral efforts, Benedict XVI said that the gaze of faith fixed on Jesus opens the mind and heart to the First Truth which is God. Benedict XVI sought to further strengthen this thought emphasizing that "a bishop must be in love with Christ."

The Shrine of the Holy Face was framed with an unusual amount of pure white snow which however did not prevent the Bishops from climbing Tarigni hill, walking along the Via Crucis. At each station the reflections were led by a different bishop. Arriving in the Basilica, Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, prior to the solemn celebration of Mass, welcomed his brother bishops from Europe and Africa and spoke regarding the extraordinary image of the Holy Face in Italian, English and French. Referring to studies of P. Heinrich Pfeiffer, Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlomer, Andrew Resch, Paul Badde and Saverio Gaeta he said that one can "respond positively and with sufficient moral certainty to two questions put by the Holy Face: Is this the Veil of Veronica once venerated in St. Peter's? And 'Is this the precious relic of the sudarium laid in the tomb on the face of the dead Christ, as attested by the Gospel of John (20, 6-7)?" These reflections were also been drawn up in a letter From Archbishop Forte personally delivered to the bishops present.

These assessments are important, which also take into account, perhaps, that the Vatican last summer in a press release for the first time admitted (after 484 years), the disappearance of Veronica during the sack of Rome in 1527. The meeting was an opportunity to meditate and pray before the Holy Face, described in detail by the German writer and journalist Paul Badde. Many bishops did not hide their emotion. A feeling that has united distant worlds, from that of the bishop of Iceland to that of South Africa. At the end of the celebration Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Ghana, expressing gratitude for the welcome they had received, asked Bruno Forte on behalf of all, that each time he returned to the Basilica of the Holy Face he might remember in his prayers the European and African bishops.

When I asked the same Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, who was part of the core group organizing the Symposium, what was the meaning which he and the other bishops would attribute to the pilgrimage to the Holy Face, he reflected deeply before replying that the impetus which comes from having known the Holy Face is to "proclaim the true Christ, a living Christ." The Archbishop Bruno Forte, to whom I had asked what impressions he had received from the participants, confirmed to me that "all were deeply affected by the pilgrimage to Manoppello".

Also present at the gathering was Petra-Maria Steiner, who in recent years has dedicated herself to studies on the Holy Face, and who is engaged in a constant effort of promotion of the Holy Face in the German speaking countries. Lastly there should be noted the greeting of the President of the Polish Bishops' Conference Jozef Michalik to Immaculata and Caterina, young nuns who arrived from Poland a few months ago and are now serving in Manoppello.


EUROPE: Jozef Michalik, chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Poland; Ludwig Swartz, archbishop of Linz, Austria; François Garnier, Archbishop of Cambrai, France, Gerard de Foix, Archbishop of Lille, France; Senkiv Taras, Greek-Catholic church Bishop of Ukraine, Lucjan Avgustini, Albania, Duarte De Cunha, Portugal, Zef Gashi, Montenegro, Petru Gherghe, Romania, Pierre Bürcher, Iceland; Vjekoslav Huzjak, Croatia; Everard De Jong, Netherlands;

AFRICA: Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg, South Africa, Jean Gabriel Djarra, Mali; Touabli Youlo Alexis, Ivory Coast, Jude Thaddeus Ruwa'ichi, Tanzania, Jean-Noël Diouf, Senegal, Denis Komivi Amuzu-Dzakpah, Togo; Gabriel Justice Anokye, Ghana; Maragde Mbonyintege, Rwanda, Frank Nubuasah, Botswana, Emmanuel Obbo, Uganda; Louis Portella Mbuyu, Congo, Benjamin Ramaroson, Madagascar, Joachim Tarounga, Chad, Charles Kasonde, Zambia, Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, Ghana.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pilgrims to the Holy Face of Manoppello -- Bishops Representing European and African Bishops Conferences

A historic day at Manoppello -- dozens of Bishops from the African and European continents together honor the Holy Face and seek help for their duties as successors to the apostles in the 21st century. Thanks to Paul Badde for this photo.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Video on Youtube of the Feast of the Holy Face in May 2011

Antonio Teseo has alerted me regarding a wonderful video which he and Giuseppe Marcantonio have produced and is now available on Youtube of the Feast of the Holy Face in May 2011. The video is "dedicated to the Italians in other countries outside Italy, especially in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Belgium, France, Luxemburg,and Switzerland who with their assistance contribute to making the festival of May unique in the world." This video is very special and has many scenes of the procession to and from the Shrine, which enable the viewer to hear the music, see the streets of Manoppello, as well as the arrival of the Holy Face at the church of San Nicola and the return of the Holy Face to its case above the altar in the Shrine by Fr. Carmine, rector of the Shrine. Many scenes are very moving for me as my wife and I were there in Manoppello for these events and participated in the processions. Thanks Antonio. To see the video, click on the following link Festa del Volto Santo di Manoppello dedicata agli italiani all'estero - YouTube

Monday, February 13, 2012

European and African Bishops to travel to Manoppello to Entrust New Evangelization to the Holy Face

On Friday February 17 the European and African Bishops participating in a symposium in Rome on the New Evangelization will travel on pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello. Archbishop Bruno Forte of the archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto will accompany the Bishops. These bishops, around 50 in number, representatives of the Bishops Conferences of Europe and the Bishops Conferences of Africa and Madagascar will represent all the bishops of Europe and Africa in entrusting the New Evangelization to the Holy Face. Read this article on the Bishops' Symposium which includes news of the pilgrimage Fides Service - AFRICA - On February 13 the Second Symposium of the European and African Bishops opens in Rome

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Seeing and Understanding the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Face of Manoppello

Paul Badde's book "The True Icon -- From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello" is now available from Ignatius Press. This book is an artistic achievement being both scholarly and accessible to the public at large. Wonderfully illustrated with dozens of photos taken by the author himself, the book will open up the sacred images "not made by human hands" to a wider audience throughout the english speaking world. Experts on the Holy Shroud as well as theologians will benefit from this masterpiece of journalism which "throws open the doors (and windows) to Christ" who reveals himself even in our day in a marvelous way by means of images. To order see The True Icon - Paul Badde : Ignatius
For more information about the book see
Press Release

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Salve Sancta Facies - Hail Holy Face

a hymn by Pope Innocent III from the year 1216

Salve sancta facies nostri redemptoris,
in qua nitet species divini splendoris
Impressa panniculo nivea candoris,
dataque Veronice signum ob amoris

Hail holy face of our redeemer on which shines the appearance of divine splendor
Impressed upon a little cloth of snowy radiance and given to Veronica as a standard of love.

Salve, decus seculi, speculum sanctorum
Quod videre cupiunt Spiritus coelorum.
Nos ab omni macula purga vitiorum,
Atque nos consortio lunge beatorum

Hail beauty of the ages, mirror of the saints, which the Spirits of the heavens desire to see.
Cleanse us from every stain of sin and guide us to the fellowship of the blessed.

Salve nostra gloria in hac vita dura,
Labili ac fragili, cito transitura.
Nos perduc ad Patriam, o felix figura,
Ad videndam faciem que est Christi pura.

Hail our glory amidst this hard life, so fragile and unstable, quickly passing away.
Point us, o happy figure, to the heavenly homeland to see the face that is Christ indeed.

Salve o sudarium, nobile iocale
Et nostrum solatium et memoriale
Eius qui corpusculum assumpsit mortale
Nostrum verum gaudium et bonum finale!

Hail, o sudarium, noble encased jewel, both our solace and the memorial of him who assumed a little mortal body – our true joy and ultimate good!