Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Celebration at Manoppello for the 41st Anniversary of the Death of the Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese Apostle of the Holy Face

\Photo by Fr. Carmine Cucinelli

report on Padre Domenico and the celebration by RETE8 the principal television network of Abruzzo


By Antonio Bini

 A long applause, encouraged by Padre Nicola Galasso, father provincial of the Capuchins of Abruzzo, concluded the solemn Mass celebrated on Sunday September 22 in the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello to remember Padre Domenico da Cese on the 41st anniversary of his death, which took place in Turin, where he had gone for the exposition of the Shroud.
Padre Nicola Galasso, father provincial of the Capuchins of Abruzzo presiding at the Mass 

Padre Nicola and Padre Carmine Cucinelli, rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face thanked the many devotees and spiritual children of Padre Domenico who came to Manoppello from various parts of Italy. For the first time, his rosary as well as his personal crucifix were exhibited which Padre Domenico had brought back in 1941 following his service as military chaplain in the Balkans. It is a crucifix, found a few months ago in the internal archive of the convent, about 24 cm high, enclosed in a simple wooden case with a glass door. It seems to have drops of blood which have clotted over time and which should be examined. There are two identical holy cards in the case that illustrate Christ's passion. On the back of one of the two there appears a reflection written by Father Dominic, dated 1941, which alludes to the gaze of Jesus.


The Mass was preceded by the meeting of the devotees in the hall of San Damiano, adjacent to the Basilica of the Holy Face, always full of interventions and personal memories, which is not easy to summarize. The meeting was introduced by Padre Carmine Cucinelli, who recalled the annual nature of the gathering, after the start of the beatification process that took place in the year 2015, following the clearance from the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Padre Cucinelli hoped that the beatification process could go forward, also thanks to the prayers of his devotees.

In my speech I tried to summarize the effects of the spread of the knowledge of Padre Domenico, interpreting some subjects of particular interest, including his relationships with the Holy Face and with St. Padre Pio.

It can certainly be argued that Padre Domenico, unlike others among his fellow friars, was strongly convinced of the authenticity of the Holy Face, of its divine character, courageously stating that it was the sudarium placed on the face of Jesus. There were other Capuchins who studied the Holy Face, reconstructing the historical events related to its presence in Manoppello, but avoiding expressing positions, while sensing the extraordinariness of the relic. Among them were Padre Philip da Tussio (1875), Br. Berardino da Monticchio (1910) and Padre Antonio da Serramonacesca (1966), who wrote learnedly on the subject.

Padre Domenico did not publish books or articles, but he expressed his thought openly in some letters addressed to his followers and confirmed it on some popular holy cards which he arranged to have printed in which he answered with great simplicity the question "What is the Holy Face?".

He had first come to know the Holy Face by going to Manoppello in 1964, recognizing the face of the man who saved him from the rubble of the church of Cese collapsed in the catastrophic earthquake that shook Marsica in 1915, causing thirty thousand deaths. The encounter changed his life.

His friend and first biographer Bruno Sammaciccia,  explained in the preface of his book "Father Dominic of the Holy Face, Capuchin, Mystic, inspired and Miracle Worker" that: "he was a true champion of the Holy Face of Manoppello, dedicating himself body and soul to the dissemination of that devotion, to the point of making it the only true purpose of his life."

Recently, the bishop of the Diocese of Isernia, Mons. Camillo Cibotti, recalled that he had met Padre Domenico as a young seminarian visiting Manoppello and that what he had preached on that occasion was still vivid in his memory:  "You will see, in the years following my death the Holy Face will be known all over the world."

Bishop Camillo Cibotti and Padre Carmine Cucinelli

Padre Domenico had many characteristics in common with Padre Pio, such as the stigmata, which seems to be pointed to in various photos and testimonies, the ability to read the souls of the people who came to him and the phenomenon of bilocations. The case of Padre Pio certainly aroused interest, having been seen praying before the Holy Face at the dawn of the last day of his earthly existence, as well as the presence of Padre Domenico at his funeral in San Giovanni Rotondo, even though he had not left Manoppello.

The latter circumstance is documented by a film of the Luce Institute, in which Padre Domenico is seen for a few seconds next to the coffin of Padre Pio. Special images in which the friar appears  surrounded by Carabinieri (Italian state police). According to some accounts, Padre Domenico, with the death of Padre Pio, would have acquired even more the prerogatives of the saint of Pietrelcina.  But other characteristics were also in common with Padre Pio, such as the simplicity and familiarity with which he welcomed those who came to meet him, even at times when he might appear gruff, often expressing himself in dialect rather than the standard Italian language in order to be more direct. It should also be considered that the flow of devotees of Padre Pio who come to the Shrine of the Holy Face on pilgrimage is growing.

Padre Pio prayer group from Frascati during a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Face of Manoppello

But Padre Domenico was distinguished above all by his intense spiritual relationship with the Holy Face. When he was assigned to Manoppello, he was followed by many of his devotees who had come to him in the friaries in which he had previously been (Luco dei Marsi, Campli, Caramanico).  They lined up to talk to him, who always made himself available, from morning to night. They went to Manoppello because of his fame and not because of the Holy Face, then known mainly at the local level, with rare exceptions.

And here it is enough to simply remember the exhibition that he courageously wanted to carry out in the adriatic city of Pescara at the Eucharistic Congress held there in September 1977, which saw the presence of Pope Paul VI.  Padre Domenico could simply not accept the exclusion of the Holy face from any accompanying event, publication or exhibition.

Among the many testimonies it is worth recalling that of the archbishop of the Diocese of Lanciano-Ortona Emidio Cipollone,  also a native of Cese, who in a message of 15 December 2013 wrote that "The ability to predict the future, the bilocation, the stigmata and anything else attributable to Padre Domenico), may not also belong to us; but fidelity to vocation, perseverance in prayer, the simplicity of the way of life, the willingness to sacrifice, the continual presence before the Lord contemplating His Face, the importance and value he gave to the Sacrament of Penance and of the Eucharist, the reception of people and the closeness to the sick, even if seasoned by roughness of character, all this is also our concern and we must guard and care for these things in our lives." The archbishop met Padre Domenico as a boy, and his elderly mother, his devotee, spoke at the commemorative meeting held in Manoppello last year, together with the community of Cese.

During his life Padre Domenico did not want to talk about himself and the extraordinary facts of which he was the protagonist, also inviting those who witnessed him to remain silent, saying that it would be talked about only after his death.

At the meeting was present Brother Vincenzo D'Elpidio, who is part of the community of Capuchins of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows of Pescara. The elderly friar, who was a friend of Padre Domenico and tireless advocate for the cause of his beatification, and who reminds many of the Servant of God, was greeted with affectionate applause.

Brother Vincenzo d'Elpidio and Antonio Bini
Br. Vincenzo in the front row at Mass in honor of Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese

In my speech I wanted to briefly tell about his role in the beatification process. Ten years after Padre Domenico's death, the memory of the Capuchin had remained strong among his devotees while the Capuchins themselves seemed to have forgotten it.  In November 1988 Padre Domenico came in a dream to Brother Vincenzo. In his sleep he heard the voice of Padre Domenico saying forcefully: “Here Brother Vincenzo is needed.  Here Brother Vincenzo is needed."  Padre Domenico, with his hood over his head and surrounded by a dozen friars, was immersed in the mud and could not get up. No one helped him, When Brother Vincenzo, with a strong build, approached his brother, the other friars had disappeared. While Padre Domenico was helped to get up with difficulty, he turned to Brother Vincenzo invoking him: "The Masses, the Masses”. Brother Vincenzo awoke, trying to understand what Padre Domenico meant. In the following days he also spoke of his dream to his father provincial and asked a priest to celebrate a Mass.  Then he thought of going to the convent of Manoppello. He asked the then superior Padre Ignatius Scurti if there was any correspondence directed to Padre Domenico, discovering that there were two boxes full of letters addressed to the Servant of God and received after his death. At that time the news of Padre Domenico's death had not reached beyond Turin and Abruzzo, while the internet and the role it would take on global information were still far away. Once he had obtained permission to open the letters, Brother Vincenzo discovered that they contained appeals and requests for help, but also thanks for the graces received, often accompanied, as was a custom then, by banknotes inserted inside, to be understood as offerings for the celebration of Masses. Padre Vincent gave the money to the father guardian and had other Masses celebrated, meeting the requests of Padre Domenico's devotees.  Bringing with him the letters, Brother Vincenzo began collecting testimonies, contacting the writers of the letters and facilitating meetings aimed at remembering the figure of Padre Domenico.  This documentation formed the basis for the start of the beatification process. After so many years he continues to support the cause with passion.

Br. Vincenzo with devotees of Padre Domenico

Also spoken about at the meeting was the American edition of the illustrated biography of Padre Domenico, edited by Sister Petra-Maria Steiner who was present at the gathering. The publication was released recently in the United States under the title Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese, O.F.M., Capuchin, An Illustrated Biographyarousing interest and curiosity, with reviews spread by various sites of information from many countries. Sister Petra Maria, who for the last three years has engaged in a laborious work of systemizing and archiving testimonies, documents, photos and articles, has created a kind of photo album that promotes the knowledge of the figure of Padre Domenico, bringing the reader to Padre Domenico’s own vision of the Holy Face.  

As always, present were numerous devotees of Padre Domenico from Puglia, in particular from Ruvo di Puglia and Andria, whose memory of Padre Domenico is linked to his spiritual daughter Sister Amalia Di Rella. It was recalled that it was in Ruvo di Puglia 40 years ago – a few months after the death of Padre Domenico – that the first enthronement of the Holy Face took place, in the Church of Purgatory, with a solemn celebration presided over by the then bishop of the diocese of Molfetta  Mons. Aldo Garzia.  
Enthronement of Holy Face in Church of Purgatory in Ruvo di Puglia with Bishop Aldo Garzia

On this occasion, a plaque was unveiled in memory of Padre Domenico da Cese, by the Holy Face Association of the city of Puglia, in the same church. 

Plaque in the Church of Purgatory, Ruvo di Puglia reads "the devotees of the Holy Face of Manoppello in memory of Padre Domenico da Cese, March 31, 1979"

Also from the devoted Puglians there remains – as then – the desire for the mortal remains of the Servant of God to return to Manoppello, from which he never wanted to part. At the beginning of last year the provincial father Nicola Galasso, with the consent of Padre Domenico’s grandnieces and nephews, started the process for the move from the chapel of the cemetery of Cese to the Basilica of the Holy Face. But it is said it could take a long time.  However, the spirit of Padre Domenico continues to be felt in Manoppello.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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

Basilica of the Holy Face – Manoppello, Italy

Padre Domenico
da Cese



 Servant of God
Apostle of the Holy Face

41° Anniversary of his death
Sunday September 22, 2019

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

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