Friday, April 27, 2018

Father Domenico da Cese: Cataloging His Letters and Documents and First Results of Recent Research in Austria and Germany

by Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner

(summary of her talk delivered during the meeting of September 17,  2017 celebrating at the shrine of the Holy Face the 39th anniversary of the death of Father Domenico da Cese.)

First of all, I would like to thank Father Carmine and Father Eugenio for allowing me to catalog both the letters and the documents of Father Domenico da Cese. For me it is a bit like expressing my gratitude to Father Domenico who - as some of those present know - five years ago healed my bad knee. A real miracle!

It all started with the request of Antonio Bini who had brought me a copy of a letter written in German dating back to 1978, asking me to look into the references to Fr. Domenico. The author of the letter was the Austrian lady Ida Loidl, from the magazine "Grüß GOTT!" And then the name of the famous prelate Holböck from Salzburg surfaced.

About six months earlier I had accompanied two gentlemen from Frankfurt - the librarian Dr. Dirk Weisbrod and the lawyer René Udwari - to see the Holy Face and both were enthusiastic about it. When they said goodbye they told me that if I needed their help, they were ready . So Dr. Weisbrod looked for the magazine "Grüß Gott", as well as news of the prelate of Salzburg, who however had died in 2002 and his papers had not yet been made available.

Everything happened then as in a detective novel: Dr. Weisbrod started looking everywhere and the attorney Udwari opened doors that were closed to me. In a short time we came into possession of the first volumes of "Grüß Gott". And so we set up the "trio of Father Domenico"!

I told you all this just to make you understand how this work started. I would now like to talk to you about Father Domenico.

This image of the Holy Face you see now is the reason why I am today in Manoppello. In his first book on the Holy Face, Paul Badde wrote that above here, in the treasury of the shrine, there is a painting of Father Domenico da Cese. And since Father Domenico was a friend of Padre Pio, this painting, created by Angelo Patricelli at the beginning of 1978, had attracted my attention. When my sister and I came down from the treasury, we stayed inside the church for two hours and we experienced the Holy Face in its incredible vitality. I thus understand better and better why Padre Pio used to say: "Please save yourself the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, go to Father Domenico, it's the same thing!"

Father Domenico is a "fire friar". Both interiorly and all around him he was like "fire".

In 1905: his parents had been married for almost five years when a child finally came to be born, for whom they had implored the help of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Grace and who received the name, Emidio.

About 1909: this poor farmer whose only child,  at about 4 years old, had been struck by polio, by infantile paralysis, and could no longer move his legs. The mother confides the son to Mary, the Mother of God - the son was not useful for the work of the fields! But the Mother of Grace heals him - now he had become useful at work!

1915: Little Emidio, at 10 years old, foretells an earthquake. It happens that both his two sisters die in the earthquake and that he remains as the only child of his parents.

1917: at age 16 Emidio wants to enter a friary- impossible! The father shows only hardness and inflexibility. Emidio withdraws more and more in himself and prophesies that other children will be born.

1921: The father yields and accompanies him to the Capuchin friary in Avezzano. In a year he must complete the final two years of high school.

1922: He enters the novitiate in Penne, and takes the name of Dominic.

1925  Until he is 26 years old he is a military chaplain in Florence - fever rises up to 107 degrees, a terrible weakness and illness shake his body. But the more the body is tormented by the fire of fever and weakness, the stronger the fire of the love of God becomes in his soul increasing his desire to dedicate himself totally to the love of God.. He return to Avezzano and then to Cese. When the father Provincial tells him that he must go to Sulmona, he replies that his state of health does not allow him but he says yes by obedience. And he goes.

1931 In Sulmona he manages to attain his greatest desire: priestly ordination. Priest forever, consecrated to the heart of Jesus! And here begins his journey that has as its goal to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in men. For him, this means to purify more and more. He carries the cross of Jesus, his cross - and now he also carries the cross of others who rely more and more on him. The purer the gold, the greater the purification. Now begins a new phase of purification for him in order to ascend to God.

1933 His father dies and Father Domenico celebrates the funeral Mass for him.

In the years 1940-41 he experienced, with the war, the madness of the pride of men. He is sent to the territory of Bosnia. He sees an abandoned church ... who knows what horrors he saw there. But even here he proves to be a true son of St. Francis: he writes several times to the bishop who then gives him the task of searching for the faithful who would protect the parish registers and the sacred furnishings as well as of course the church.

In this terrible fire of war, cannons and bullets, Dominic says the Rosary holding a small cross in his hand. While he is praying, blood flows from the body of Christ: from the hands, the feet, the head and also from the heart. This is also seen by those who pray with him. The holy blood of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the redemption of the many who die or who are wounded.

In this theater of war, will Father Domenico da Cese become so much like Christ that he himself receives the wounds that bleed as the cross in his hands had previously? Some say yes, others say they have not seen any wound in him. Or maybe they only became visible from time to time?

Wounds are not necessary to be a saint. But some photos I found amazed me. Are not wounds seen?Can it not be that Father Domenico, as he was present, secretly, in bilocation at the funeral of Padre Pio, in the same way carried the wounds that were hidden only at certain times? On this, however, I leave to the judgment to the Church.

From the documents one can come to the conclusion that both his state of health and his love for the truth - which rejected every compromise - led to his early discharge from military service.

In 1960 he sees that in Campli the liturgical garments are not worthy of the feast days and that the people are too poor to buy new ones, so he addresses himself directly to the Pope or more precisely to the Holy See with the request to obtain new ones.

From 1946 until about 1964 he had to suffer difficulties from his brothers. More and more people appreciated him as a confessor and a spiritual father, more and more people were looking for him and became attached to him and this was certainly not easy for other Capuchins to accept. You know how it happens even within families: when someone wants to be something special!

The sanctity of someone either makes us grow in the desire to become saints too, or leads us to disdain the other - who we also make suffer. The closeness to God of Father Dominic, who expressed himself ever more in his youthful character, became a cross for others.

Imagine you are a part of a group photo and that there is always someone who raises their hands upwards, turning their eyes to the sky - he is once again the center of attention !!!

But he did not let himself be misled. In his marvelous child like character, he ascended more and more towards his Heavenly Father so that he knew exactly what he could obtain from Him by prayer. He lived more and more with God, his Heavenly Father and Mary and was quite like a child, so that the outside - this life - he did not care for.

The cross and the rosary became the theme of his life.

Later, Father Domenico went to Caramanico, a village where he was called the "Padre Pio of Abruzzo".   His reputation as a priest had spread so much that neither the mayor nor the inhabitants of Caramanico wanted to let him go to Manoppello and tried to change the mind of his father Provincial

 As for his health, it would have been better to stay there, as he himself had written to the provincial. But by obedience he was ready to leave. And so he left for Manoppello on July 13, 1967. Obedience always marked his whole spiritual life.

As in Sulmona his priestly life flourished through obedience, so in Manoppello he would reach perfection through obedience when he became the first great proclaimer of the Holy Face which had remained, as it were, lost from sight for around 450 years.

He knew how to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ; He knew that he held in his priestly hands, after the consecration, the Victor over death and put Him in the hearts of the faithful who came to communion. Perhaps the faithful knew very little about all this - today as then ?!

In the Holy Face he could make Jesus visible to their eyes. This is why Father Dominic never tired of climbing the stairs leading to the Holy Face to announce the good news.

Father Dominic was an ascetic, even though his outward appearance did not show it. He did not drink wine, only beer for the kidneys, he did not eat meat because he perceived that it had cost the death of an animal; he was dispensed by the  father provincial from attending the evening meal; for a long time he slept on the bare floor until, by obedience, he had to use a bed. Nevertheless, he had his favorite dish: potato gnocchi with tomato sauce.

When you read his letters, it is striking the fact that he always wrote to the edge of the page. His life was like his letters: he always came to the end, up to the edge, up to the border between the earth and heaven. He was a "explorer of the limits". Only those who were ready to go with him beyond the frontier of normality, of daily life, found in him a father, a friend, a confessor, a pastor, a helper, a teacher and even a brother - a priest according to the heart of God!

And a car that struck him as he was about to reach the sidewalk put an end to his life here on earth and to open the door of eternity. But with his death his work is not finished, indeed, his task has spread to the whole world.

All of us who are here today, like all those who collaborate to make known the Holy Face, are following in his footsteps.

To conclude, I would like to tell you about an episode that Mrs Ida Loidl reports in her magazine, writing as follows:
«Father Domenico said that when you have a problem or need help, send me your guardian angel and say to him:" Angel of God, you are my keeper, go to Father Domenico and tell him in my name (and here you have to add your name) that I need this grace '».
When I, several years later, went to Manoppello, he saw me from afar and exclaimed: "Ah, here is the lady who sends me the angels around midnight". I was a bit 'dazed but he reassured me by adding: "Keep doing so, you are a mother and mothers have so many things to do!" -

And I assure you that he continues to do so today, if we send him our guardian angel. Try it!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Biography of Father Dominic da Cese Published in Brazil

The Capuchin Apostle of the Holy Face, with a Life Parallel to that of Padre Pio

By Antonio Bini

Fr Domenico da Cese, in his lifetime, had repeatedly maintained that he would be written about only after his death, as also his friend and first biographer, Bruno Sammaciccia, wrote. He asked that we should not talk about him, but about the Holy Face. Those who knew him or who became aware of his figure only in recent years know how much the life of the Capuchin born in Cese, a hamlet of Avezzano, has been full of extraordinary facts.

So, it was with a certain sense of disbelief that Father Eugenio Di Gianberardino, speaking at the commemoration of Father Dominic da Cese, held in Manoppello on September 17, 2016, had to mention the interest of a Brazilian publisher who had requested authorization to to publish in Portuguese his 2014 biography on the Servant of God. Probably he was not convinced of the interest shown over the ocean towards the life of the humble Capuchin of Abruzzo and that the publication would ever be actually realized.

The book was then published by Ecclesiae, of Campinas, in the state of São Paulo, with the title "Padre Domenico de Cese, apostolo da Sagrada Face de Manoppello" (Father Dominic da Cese, Apostle of the Holy Face). The emphasis on the connection with the Holy Face, was appropriately made by the publisher himself, Diogo Chiuso, who personally oversaw the book's introduction, explaining how the figure of the Servant of God was closely linked to that of the sacred image, of which Father Dominic was a devout and tireless promoter, until his death on September 17, 1978 in Turin, where he had gone for the exposition of the Shroud.

The introduction recalls the life of the Capuchin from Abruzzo as being parallel to that of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who, when he was alive, often recommended to many of his devotees from the north of Puglia that they save  themselves the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo by visiting Fr. Dominic at Manoppello instead. And there are many testimonies which have been obtained in this regard, and what's more, from people still living.

To try to understand what were the circumstances that led to the publication I contacted Prof. José Eduardo Câmara who, knowing the Italian language, had handled the relationship between the Brazilian publisher and the author of the Italian edition, Father Eugenio Di Gianberardino, Vice- postulator of the cause of beatification of the humble Capuchin from Abruzzo.

Professor. Camara has long known about the Holy Face, while the story of Father Dominic he had learned  about more recently, while consulting a book that collects the profiles of holiness of  Capuchins in the world. The story of the Capuchin then came to the notice of another Brazilian scholar of the life of Father Pio of Pietrelcina and of the extraordinary phenomena that marked his life.

Prof. José E. Câmara (left) with the editor Diogo Chiuso

The scope of these discussions ended up involving the publisher Diogo Chiuso, who was particularly attracted by the story of Father Dominc and his unique relationship with Padre Pio, a report re-introduced in 2011 by an article - entitled "Padre Pio's last visit" - which described the bi-location of Padre Pio in Manoppello, in front of the Holy Face, at the dawn of the last day of his earthly life, which was published in "The Voice of Padre Pio" by the authoritative Australian journalist Paul MacLeod, a scholar of the Saint of Pietrelcina , recently passed away.

The article, also repeated on this blog at, extending the story told years earlier by the German Catholic magazine PUR (Spezial No. 4/2005).

The phenomenon of the bi-location would be completed, just a few days following Padre Pio's death, with Fr. Dominic's presence at the funeral of  Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo,despite Father Dominic not having moved from the shrine of Manoppello, receiving as many people there as every other day. (cf. report with video at

The two Capuchins, united by their ability to read people's souls, had met in 1940, when Fr. Dominic, then a military chaplain, first in Trieste and then in Ragusa, in the former Yugoslavia, wanted to go to San Giovanni Rotondo, during a furlough, to personally meet Padre Pio. On this occasion he stayed in the Capuchin friary of Padre Pio in the Gargano for five days.  Fr. Dominic's father, like Padre Pio's,  was a farmer and both were emigrants to the United States.

Prof. Câmara himself admits that the Brazilian edition of the book represents "a small miracle", considering the circumstances that preceded it and all the difficulties in publishing texts of spirituality in Brazil and in particular biographies of saints.

It is also surprising how different people, including the publisher Diogo Chiuso, descendant of Italian emigrants to Brazil, have approached the Holy Face through the knowledge of the figure and the life of Father Dominic da Cese, or Emidio Petracca as he was known before entering the Capuchins.

In addition to this, in the past there were many Italian emigrants to various countries who had written letters to Fr. Dominic from various countries, entrusting him with their sorrows and personal and family tragedies. But there were also many Austrian, German and Swiss devotees who in the sixties and seventies organized pilgrimages to Manoppello and San Giovanni Rotondo, as documented by recently recovered German language Catholic magazines.

The Portuguese edition of the biography of Father Dominic is sober, well edited and includes, along with the Italian edition, in addition to the aforementioned introduction, also the text of the prayer for the beatification of Father Domenico, written in 2006 by Luca Brandolini, then bishop of Sora.

The Capuchin would say that he would be spoken and written about only after his death. From Brazil comes one confirmation, among many, of his prophetic message.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Celebration of the 39th Anniversary of the Death of Father Domenico da Cese, Apostle of the Holy Face

After the 39th Anniversary of the death of the Capuchin Father Domenico da Cese a push for the transferral of his mortal remains to the Basilica of the Holy Face

by Antonio Bini

On September 17, 2017, the 39th anniversary of Father Domenico's death was celebrated. Whoever thought that after the passing of the years the fame of holiness of the friar would have become extinct, were proven wrong by the massive presence of his devotees and former spiritual children, who flocked from all over on the day of the commemoration, packing the church and participating in the remembrance of his Christian and Religious life which he had lived in an exemplary way. Coaches arrived from Cese, Ruvo di Puglia and Andria and automobiles from: Chieti, Pescara, Rome, Sulmona, Ascoli Piceno, Vasto and other neighboring cities.

In the shrine's San Damiano hall there was a presentation on the work of a team in the process of gathering and arranging the documents concerning the servant of God including letters written and / or received by the friar, various testimonies of the faithful recounting episodes that occurred to them or benefits received through his intercession and articles of newspapers and magazines, as well as the transcription of  manuscript texts and a series of black and white and color photographs. We have writings of 493 people, arranged in about fifteen collections, and the texts from various sources amount to 908 so far. To these are added 166 binders concerning the correspondence of Father Domenico with his superiors and his personal documents. We have 100 of his letters to the faithful.

Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner and Sr. Tabita cataloging documents regarding Fr. Domenico

Recently several copies of the Austrian Catholic magazine "Grüß Gott" were acquired, which before the death of Father Domenico, published articles on the pilgrimages of Austrian and German devotees to San Giovanni Rotondo and to Manoppello where they went to meet Father Domenico. Films and vocal recordings are also being collected.

The readers of this article who would have any of these or be aware of them, are asked to send them or report them to the Shrine. This working group has as its animator Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner and is composed of Dr. Antonio Bini, the lawyer René Udwari, the librarian Dr. Dirk Weisbrot, Fr. Vincenzo D'Elpidio, the Vice-Postulator of the cause of beatification, Fr. Eugenio Di Giamberardino (Vice-Postulator of the cause of beatification), and the rector of the Holy Face Basilica, Fr. Carmine Cucinelli.

In concluding her speech in which she retraced the main stages of the Servant of God's life, Sister Petra-Maria recalled an episode recounted in the aforementioned Austrian magazine by Mrs Ida Loidl:
«Father Domenico said when you have a problem or need help, send me your guardian angel and say to him:" Angel of God, you are my guardian, go to Father Domenico and tell him in my name (and here you must add your name ) that I need this grace '».
When I, several years later, went to Manoppello, he saw me from afar and exclaimed: "Ah, here is the lady who sends me the angels around midnight". I was a bit 'dazed but he reassured me by adding: "Keep on doing so, you are a mother and mothers have so many things to do!"

During the meeting several devotees also spoke, telling extraordinary facts of which they were direct witnesses.

The day was also accompanied by good weather. Father Claudio Calvarese, provincial vicar of the Capuchin friars of Abruzzi, presided over the concluding Eucharist. He highlighted the figure of his confrere by framing him in the liturgy of the day which spoke of love, in particular of the forgiveness that is its highest and sometimes most heroic attribute. Concelebrating were: Father Eugenio Di Giamberardino, Father Carmine Cucinelli, the parish priest of Cese (AQ) Fr. Onwujiogu Valentine Obinna and a Kenyan priest his friend.

The great participation of devotees led the provincial father of the Capuchins of Abruzzo - Fr. Nicola Galasso - to start the process of transferring the mortal remains of Fr. Domenico from the private chapel of the small cemetery in Cese to the Basilica of the Holy Face. To this end, once the positive opinion had been informally expressed by Archbishop Forte of the archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto,  Fr. Nicola Galasso asked, on January 16, 2018, for the consent to the transfer from the six nieces and nephews of Fr. Domenico.

Fr. Eugenio Di Giamberardino and Fr. Nicola Galasso

The father provincial justified the initiative by expressly recalling "Fr. Domenico's tenacious and passionate commitment to the promotion of the Holy Face, without forgetting that this was certainly his aspiration and that of many of his devotees and admirers ".

The nieces and nephews enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, expressing their consent with a joint letter. The procedure requires several further steps, including the conclusive opinion of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. We will update you on further stages of the process.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Veneration of the Holy Face in Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

 A phenomenon that goes beyond the Philippines

The visit in August 2017 to Manoppello by Father Christian Magtalas - rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Asia

by Antonio Bini

originally published in "Il Volto Santo", the official publication of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Fr. Christian Magtalas celebrating Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Until just a few years ago we had never even heard of Nampicuan, a town of about 13,000 inhabitants, in the province of New Ecija, in central Luzon region, a hundred kilometers from Manila. Much has changed, and also for Nampicuan itself , since September 16, 2014, the date on which Fr. Carmine Cucinelli brought as a gift a replica of the Holy Face which was solemnly enthroned in the church of the Immaculate Conception. (cf.

Fr. Carmine presenting Fr. Christian with a replica of the Holy Face

The event was part of a busy itinerary of what was the first international mission of the Holy Face to the Philippines and the United States, promoted and organized by Daisy Neves and a small number of friends. These included the spouses Ernest and Elena Alzate, Americans of Filipino origin, who wanted to pay homage to the town of Nampicuan, from which they emigrated.  (cf.

The parish priest of Nampicuan, Fr Christian Magtalas, previously had not known of the Holy Face, but enthusiastically welcomed the mission of Fr. Carmine and dedicated all his energies so that the event was a celebration that involved the entire population, the religious of the diocese and the local Bishop Roberto Mallari, who became a passionate supporter of enthronement, also taking part was Archbishop Florentino Lavarias ( Archdiocese of Pampaga) and the Bishop Florentino Cinense (Diocese of Tarlac).  (cf.

The months following this were unbelievable.

We had the opportunity to speak directly with Fr Christian who  last  August was able to fulfill his dream of arriving at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.
Father Christian is a youthful 36-year-old priest. He is very emotional in front of the Holy Face and his emotion becomes even more palpable during the celebration of Mass.  It does not matter if in front of him there is only a small group of pilgrims who accompany him on the pilgrimage.

Paul and Ellen Badde also traveled to Manoppello to meet the young priest whom they had met in Nampicuan during their September 2015 mission. Paul's embrace is particularly affectionate.
I have the opportunity to speak with Fr Christian, with the help of Fr Bonifacio (Ted) Lopez, a Filipino priest of the Diocese of Rome, who met Fr. Christian during his second mission in the Philippines, accompanying Fr. Carmine on his return to Nampicuan.  

Paul Badde and Fr. Christian Magtalas

Fr. Bonifacio (Ted) Lopez

Fr. Christian relates that he had only become a priest in 2013 and had been assigned to Nampicuan, in a poor situation, where even religious participation was rather limited. A path not easy for the young priest, among other things made more difficult by his precarious health conditions due to a tumor he was getting treatment for. This situation did not discourage him, immediately deepening to the maximum his commitment to the parish community. But it was then the arrival of the Holy Face to change things, turning the church into a destination of pilgrims and devotees from the surrounding areas, so much so that the religious authorities gave it the new name of Shrine of the Holy Face. The first shrine of the Holy Face in Asia.  Father Christian reports that even the governmental authorities have supported the phenomenon so much so that they declared - last May 17 - the Shrine as a site of national interest for religious tourism. The national government is committed to helping the development of the locality, which has begun to be included in travel programs by travel agencies. Road signs for the Shrine have been added to the nearby motorway.

But Father Christian especially wants to emphasize that there are many testimonies of faith and healing that have been reported. No less important was his ability to promote the creation of a group of people - called "Servants of Holy Face" - which is continuously growing and collaborating with the Shrine in welcoming pilgrims, organizing events and taking care of the surrounding gardens. to the church. Each of them enthusiastically wears a t-shirt that identifies them with the inevitable Holy Face.

The young priest expresses his enthusiasm for the visit of Cardinal Tagle to Manoppello and for his homily given on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Face in May. Looking at the photos of the cardinal during the procession he comments: "considering the authority and the consideration that Cardinal Tagle has in the Philippines and in other countries, especially in Asia, all this represents for me a further push to move forward in promoting the knowledge and devotion to the Holy Face ".

At the same time this phenomenon is registering an increasing number of pilgrims to Manoppello coming from Asia (the Philippines, South Korea, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.). Though not in large numbers but still, it's an unprecedented situation.

It is the same Father Christian who marvels about what has happened to him and the poor community of Nampicuan, in which they came to manifest unexpected acts of generosity that also led to the creation of a farm with a hundred mango trees whose income helps support the church and the local economy as well.

Also Daisy Neves, the tireless missionary of the Holy Face, on December 3, 2016 went on pilgrimage to the shrine in Nampicuan from the city of Bellevue (in the state of Washington) where she lives, personally witnessing the fervor of initiatives around the Shrine, encouraging the action of the young priest.

During his visit to Manoppello Father Christian received a gift from Fr. Carmine of a reproduction of the Shroud, which he himself had requested before coming to Italy. In the days immediately following his return to Nampicuan, the shroud with the face covered with a reproduction of the Holy Face was carried in a solemn procession through the streets of Nampicuan, accompanied by an immense crowd of people and pilgrims who came also from distant places. The event was also broadcast by CNN of the Philippines.

A unique initiative, which seems to correspond to the need for a united  representation of the two most popular cloths on which the image of Christ is exposed. In any case the Shrine is constantly at the center of media attention, as happened during last Easter week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Joy To All - The Lord is Truly Risen!

Jesus is Risen, He is Truly Risen

Sequence for the Mass of Easter the Resurrection of the Lord.

The Holy Face of Manoppello testifies to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus