Friday, April 9, 2021

The Icon of Easter

The Flemish painter Juan de Flandes painted around 1498 "The Resurrection of Christ and Three Women at the Tomb", Palacio Real de Madrid

Forensic evidence

from the resurrection

of the Son of God

by Paul Badde   

originally published in the German magazine Vatikan (April, 2021 edition)

and online

for a helpful commentary on this article see the post by Patricia Enk at

The icon of the resurrection -- the napkin (or sudarium) from the tomb of Christ -- is essentially transparent. as we were able to marvel at again three years ago on the booklet that Pope Francis prepared in 2018 for the participants in the liturgy of his Easter Mass at St. Peter's Basilica which displayed a panel from 1498 by Juan de Flandes, depicting the moment when “ Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome “came to the tomb”, as Mark says. “They saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe; they were very amazed. But he said to them: Don't be amazed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. ” 

Cover page of Booklet from Easter Vigil Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica 2018

The Flemish painter in Spain incorrectly depicted the empty tomb as an open sarcophagus, which demonstrates that he had never been to Jerusalem. On the other hand, he obviously knew Rome and was familiar with its treasures, as shown here. Because over the edge of this sarcophagus hangs very realistically a transparent veil to which the angel points --the sudarium -- the key relic of the Lord that was known to thousands of pilgrims to Rome during the artist’s lifetime and ever since Pope Innocent VIII had first carried this veil barefoot on a Sunday in January 1208 from Peter's Basilica to the nearby hospital church of Santo Spirito. This veil, too, was transparent and enigmatic like the resurrection itself, at the heart of our faith.


Because the essence of Christianity is neither the cathedral of Cologne nor St. Peter's Basilica, but only the resurrection of Christ from the kingdom of the dead to Life in the land of the living, however impossible it may seem. But without the belief in precisely this impossibility, our whole faith would be filth, says Paul. Then we could leave the church immediately with the multitudes of all the others who have left without even having to ask as Peter did: “Lord, where should we go?” Because first of all Christ would no longer be our Lord and secondly we would already know where we wanted to escape to with the money from the church assessment we no longer pay, no matter that it is impossible to find a place or a society of people without abuse and without lies, fraud, crime, and violence.



If, on the other hand, Christ has truly risen from the dead, then anything is possible. Then the church will wake up again from the death zone of abuse and flourish again, in Cologne, throughout  Germany and everywhere. Nevertheless, many theologians over the past centuries have tried to minimize the offensive nature of the challenge to believe in the resurrection of Christ by using scriptural tricks and to make it more compatible with the spirit of the age (“zeitgeist”).  These kind of “glass bead games” however were never possible for icon writers or visual artists as long as they were serious about the core of their beliefs.



Theologians and artists share a common problem, however: there were no witnesses to the act of Christ's resurrection from the dead. None of the evangelists were there. All four only report what it looked like in Jesus' tomb after the resurrection. Matthew tells of an "angel" in a snow-white robe who says to three women in the burial chamber: "He is not here". It is similar with Mark. Luke speaks of "two men in shining robes". And with John we learn how Peter and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” looked into the tomb of Christ early in the morning. - There is only one thing that none of the four evangelists say: that the tomb was empty. Obviously, it wasn't. Jesus was no longer there. But there were cloths at the scene of which the poet Wipo (+ 1048) spoke in his Easter sequence "Victimae paschali laudes", Mary had seen two "angelic witnesses", namely the "napkin and linen cloths" (Latin: sudarium et vestes). These witnesses and forensic traces of evidence have, thank God, been preserved uncorrupted  and materially, with the DNA of the Son of God.



First there is the sacred Sudarium from Rome, which is now in Manoppello, and then there is the Holy Shroud, the world-famous linen in Turin. We encounter both fabrics  for the first time in the testimony of John, who described Easter morning in this way: “Then Simon Peter, who had followed him, arrived and went into the tomb (which was a cave hewn in the rock). He saw the linen cloths lying there and the napkin (Greek: soudarion) that had been lying on Jesus' head; but it was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had come to the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.” - That is the key passage in this gospel, which, however, only becomes plausible when read in conjunction with the specific cloths that John mentions here.


The "Holy Shroud" or the Shroud of Turin is only rarely shown and yet has been researched as has no other textile in the world, by a genuine and separate science, Sindonology, which in the last century has focused on this linen cloth with the dimensions of 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches (436cm by 110 cm) and which captures the panorama and the torture of the flagellation, the crowning of thorns and the crucifixion of Christ in an inexplicable way, as in a detailed script, as well as the subsequent piercing of his heart and the extinction of his last spark of life by means of a lance. This cloth contains blood and water.


The sudarium, on the other hand, is a very delicate veil that was kept in Rome for centuries and then for a long time in Manoppello, where it was locked away until 1923, in similar fashion to the shroud in Turin. Nevertheless, for almost a century, unlike the situation of the Shroud in Turin, every pilgrim to Manoppello has been able to observe and study the sudarium at close quarters every day from morning to evening above the main altar as never before. At certain times and in certain light it shows the face of Christ with open eyes and healed wounds.  Yet when unshadowed, the veil reveals, above all, complete transparency as its inner characteristic - as if Easter were the festival of transparency towards heaven and God's eternity in another world. 


     photo taken in November 2017 of the Holy Face of Manoppello which displays its transparency


A good hundred years before Juan de Flandes, the Catalan painter Joan Mates (1370 - 1431) masterfully expressed this characteristic of the napkin of Christ in his panel of the "Lamentation of Christ", where we see Nicodemus, who after Jesus’ deposition from the cross is putting a transparent fabric over His face.

 Joseph of Arimathea and John put the napkin on the dead Jesus

Panel painting by Joan Mates from Barcelona from 1429.
Photo: Wikimedia (CC0)

The model for this depiction here can only have been the Roman “Sudarium” of the Popes from St. Peter's Basilica, the “true icon”, which has also been called “Veronica” there since the Middle Ages. Countless images in the history of art attest to this Easter transparency.  One of the key witnesses to this mystery, moreover, is Dr. Martin Luther, who saw the veil on his trip to Rome in 1511 and who still sneered in 1545 that the “Lord's face in his little sweat cloth”, which was regularly shown and displayed at Saint Peter’s, was nothing but „ein klaret lin“ in other words: Doctor Luther had only seen a “transparent linen” here.


The large shroud, which is by no means transparent, appeared for the first time in Lirey in Champagne in 1355 and was only brought through the efforts of St. Charles Borromeo from Chambéry in Savoy to Turin in 1578, 233 years later, which began the process of western Christendom gradually getting to know it.  Previously, the Shroud had been the most precious part of the treasures of the emperor of Byzantium remaining more or less a rumor for the pilgrims of Europe until 1578.


In the "Codex Pray" in Budapest, the burial cloths of Christ from the zero hour of Christianity appear for the first time almost realistically together in the picture around the year 1180.
Photo: Wikimedia (CC0)

An image- document in the Széchényi library of the National Museum of Budapest dates back to 1192 (at the latest), and for decades has become something of a new founding document for all shroud researchers and their highly complex science. It is a small colored drawing on parchment in a codex measuring 9.5 inches by 5.9 inches, which also highlights the resurrection of Christ from the dead - and the burial of the crucified Lord. Above we therefore see Jesus dead, lying with a peaceful face, on a sheet that has been rolled out on a stone. His eyes and mouth are closed, with a sparse beard and long hair parted in the middle which hide his ears and frame his face. At the head of Jesus stands Joseph of Arimathea, the councilor of the Sanhedrin, at the feet of the Lord stands John. Both grasp the cloth with which the body was removed from the cross, while Nicodemus empties a bottle with precious spices over the body, as we read in the Gospel of John (19:39). The stone slab underneath is reminiscent of the so-called "anointing stone" from the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has long been venerated as the most important relic of the Pantocrator Church of Constantinople. Three striking details are unique in this representation. First, the body of Jesus is naked. Second, he keeps his hands crossed over the pubic area, his right hand over the left. Third, both hands only show four fingers and no thumb. So Jesus is depicted here as a real victim of an ancient, real, and concrete crucifixion, in which the nails were driven through the roots of his wrists (and not the palms of the hands). During this torture, the thumbs cramped inward into the palms of the hands due to the injury to the median nerve. And for this representation there is only a single “picture” in the vast array of pictures throughout History, which must have served as an exemplar and model. This is the Shroud of Christ in Turin which shows these significant details, but long before this linen even had appeared in Europe!


And this drawing from the library of Budapest was also made at least 133 years before the date assigned to the Shroud, resulting from a sensational radiocarbon investigation in 1988, according to which the shroud was supposed to have been woven between 1260 and 1390. This drawing from Budapest, which documents its evidence as if with a photo proof, dates from 1192 at the latest. For in 1150, on the occasion of an arranged wedding in Constantinople, the ambassador of Hungary was received by Manuel II Komnenos, and the Emperor of Byzantium showed him and his delegation the hidden treasures of his Blachern Chapel. In the process, the Shroud of Christ must have impressed itself in detail on one of the participants of the Hungarian delegation. Below the entombment we see - as centuries later with Juan de Flandes - three women come to the grave at the right, where an angel on the left with an outstretched right forefinger indicates the resurrection of Christ on this first Easter morning. Between the angel and the women we see a large, folded sheet of fabric, which is covered on the inside with Greek crosses and on the outside with zigzag lines, which are interpreted in research as an attempt to draw the herringbone pattern of the shroud. Four small holes depict four very old fire damage holes that can still be found in the "Holy Shroud" today.   But above this shroud, under the angel's finger, we see another folded little cloth, as if blowing, or as “rolled up, next to it, in a special place”, which had been lying on the face of the dead Jesus, as we came to know by the gospel of John.



This veil over the large linen has a liveliness, as if wind were blowing into it. And under its right edge we can still see parts of the pattern of the shroud through the fabric. Making the veil completely transparent has obviously overwhelmed the capacity of the author of this almost childlike drawing. Nevertheless, in contrast to the large shroud, the sudarium appears as animated as the stole of the angel next to it. And in any case, we encounter the two cloths together in an almost realistic way for the first time in the picture, from the zero hour of Christianity. And both without “pictures”, without a body image and without a face, at least to our eyes.


The most significant detail of this depiction is, however, often overlooked in many debates about the burial cloths of Christ. In this representation in the Codex Pray from Budapest, the extremely important link for the history of the authenticity  of the shroud of Turin the angel doesn’t point to the big, long linen but to the transparent sudarium which like no other “image” allows us to gaze into the paschal mystery of the paschal hour.


Monday, April 5, 2021

The Poet Dante Describes the Face of Jesus in Eternal Easter Light


The Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) wrote lines arguably described as among the greatest lines of poetry ever as the climax of his Divine Comedy inspired by his own gazing upon the image of the Veronica at St. Peter's Basilica on Easter Wednesday, in the Holy Year of 1300.  He begins by quoting the admonition he received from the contemplative monk, St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

"Look now on the face that most resembles Christ, for only its brightness can fit thee to see Christ"

"Riguarda omai nella faccia che a Cristo piu' si somiglia, che la sua chiarezza sola ti puo' disporre a veder Cristo"  Paradise  Canto XXXII, 85-87

In Canto XXXIII after having heeded the words of the saint, gazing upward the poet exclaims:

"Not that the living light at which I gazed had more than a single aspect -- for it was ever the same as it was before-- but by my sight gaining strength as I looked, the one sole appearance, I myself transformed, was, for me, transformed."

"Non perche piu' ch' un semplice sembiante fosse nel vive lume ch' io mirava, che tal e' sempre qual s'era davante; ma per la vista che s'avvalorava in me guardando, una sola parvenza, mutandom' io, a me si travagliava."Canto XXXIII, 109- 114

"O Light Eternal, that alone abidest in Thyself, alone knowest Thyself, and, known to Thyself and knowing, lovest and smilest on Thyself!. That circling which, thus begotten, appeared in Thee as reflected light, when my eyes dwelt on it for a time, seemed to me, within it and in its own colour, painted with our likeness, for which my sight was wholly given to it."

"O luce eterna che sola in te sidi, sola t'intendi, e da te intelletta e intendente te ami e arridi!, Quella ciculazion che si concetta pareva in te come lume reflesso dalli occhi miei alquanto circumspetta, dentro da se' del suo colore stesso, mi parve pinta della nostra effige; per che 'l mio viso in lei tutto era messo." Paradise, Canto XXXIII, 125-132

"Like the geometer who sets all his mind to the measuring of the circle and for all his thinking does not discover the principle he needs, such was I at that new vista. I wished to see how the image was fitted to the circle and how it has its place there; but my own wings were not sufficient for that had not my mind been struck by a flash of light wherein my desire came to pass; Here power failed the high fantasy; but now my desire and will, like a wheel that spins with even motion, were revolved by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars."

Qual e' 'l geometra che tutto s'affige per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova, pensando, quel principio ond'elli indige, tal era io a quella vista nova:  veder volea come si convenne l'imago al cerchio e come vi s'indova; ma non eran da cio' le proprie penne: se non che la mia menta fu percossa da un folgore in che sua voglia venne.  All'alta fantasia qui manco' possa; ma gia' volgeva il mio disio e ' velle, si come rota ch'igualmente e' mossa, l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle."  Paradise Canto XXXIII, 133-145

Friday, April 2, 2021

Salve Sancta Facies


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!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Living Image of Jesus

   The first known photograph of the Holy Face of Manoppello


        The Holy Face of Manoppello reveals and contains an astonishing number of images of Jesus, no single photograph or even any very, very large group of photographs of the Holy Face of Manoppello will ever cause one to say "Now I have seen the full extent of how Jesus truly looks".  I can only say and affirm that the Holy Face of Manoppello is a living image on a marvelous veil displayed for all to see every day inside a compact basilica which communicates the whole Gospel, as I have said before, showing forth the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious Mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

 I urge all those who follow this blog to take the time during this Lent to go to the part of the blog which contains "all photos on the blog" which is listed at the top of the "Important Websites" referred to at the left column of the blog.  All Photos on Blog   There are hundreds of photographs of the Holy Face of Manoppello which I have been blessed to see and post on the blog.  Most of the photographs were taken by the author and journalist Paul Badde to whom I am extremely grateful. 

Today at Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent, the Deacon who gave the homily connected the transfigured face of Jesus which Peter, James, and John saw on the mountain and the disfigured face of Jesus which John saw on Calvary.  He said that  the transfigured Jesus' face  was a preparation for the apostles to endure the vision of Jesus' disfigured face and that we too must gaze upon the transfigured face of Jesus to endure the crosses which we will see our loved ones and ourselves carry.  

To illustrate what I am trying to express, I would like to post here a sample of the variety of photographs of the Holy Face of Manoppello which I have had the honor to post since starting this blog over a dozen years ago.  


Monday, February 1, 2021

Votive Mass of the Holy Face


Over the years this blog has promoted the Votive Mass of the Holy Face.  In 2008 and 2011 posts from the blog (see links below) included the prayers in English and Latin of the Votive Mass of the Holy Face which is celebrated at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello.  These prayers can be printed out by readers.  Booklets containing printed copies of these Masses can be obtained by sending an email to

There is also a Mass of the Holy Face to be celebrated on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday)To quote Fr. Mark Kirby, O.S.B. of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, 

   "Masses in honor of the Holy Face appeared as early as the fourteenth century. In 1958 Pope Pius XII approved the observance of a feast of the Holy Face of Jesus on Shrove Tuesday.   A Mass of the Holy Face of Jesus for Shrove Tuesday was approved by the Holy See in 1986."  The prayers in English for this Mass can be found at

Sunday, January 24, 2021

EWTN Report on Omnis Terra Sunday


The report on the beautiful celebration of Omnis Terra last Sunday January 17  begins at 1:30

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Homily of Archbishop Georg Gänswein at the Eucharistic Celebration of Omnis Terra Sunday at the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello


Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

                                                                                                  English Translation Copyright EWTN

Basilica of the Volto Santo

Manoppello, Sunday, January 17, 2021


Dear brothers in the priestly ministry,

dear representatives of the civil authorities,

dear sisters and brothers in the Lord.

“As [John] watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God,’” we heard earlier in the Gospel. We can also say the same words here with John the Evangelist every day in view of the face of Christ in the Volto Santo.

Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

 Omnis terra is the name of today’s Sunday in the liturgical calendar, after the Latin words of Psalm 65 at the beginning of this Holy Mass: Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi! That means in English, “Let all the earth worship you and praise you, o God; may it sing in praise of your name.” We have gathered here today, too, for this ancient praise of God by all the earth, in the Pontifical Basilica of the Volto Santo.

 The occasion for this feast day is the memory of the same Sunday of the year 1208, when Pope Innocent III carried this true image of the Lord, which we see and venerate here above the main altar, as humbly as a mendicant monk from the old Basilica of St. Peter in Rome to the sick of the capital, as well as the sick pilgrims from all over Europe, to the nearby Hospital of the Holy Spirit. The most powerful and power-conscious pope of the Middle Ages brought the archetype of the merciful God barefoot to the sick and dying!

Before that, this precious veil icon had been kept hidden for a long time. With this step, the image came out into the open and became publicly known for the first time in the entire Catholic universal Church — on this Sunday in winter, which even then, in January 1208, began with the same words from the psalm as today: Omnis terra.

But that Pope Innocent III at that time carried the holy face, together with his canons, not to the scholars and nobles of the city, but to the sick and the poor of Rome, we must especially remember today, January 17, 2021, when the expression Omnis terra — “all the earth” — has taken on a startling reality as perhaps never before! For all the world is suddenly threatened by an invisible virus, all continents, all skin colors, nations and religions — truly all the people of this earth, young and old! All the world suddenly fears disease and death together, from Tierra del Fuego to Vladivostok. When was the expression Omnis terra ever more timely and burning!

 Therefore, it was for me a sacred duty as well as a great joy to come today, despite all the coronavirus obstacles, from Rome to Manoppello, where at present no pilgrims can come because of the pandemic. I had to come to bring the Volto Santo, at least through the medium of the moving images of television, to as many sick and lonely people as possible!

Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

 That is why I now also remember with gratitude the day five years ago today when Fr. Carmine Cucinelli invited me and the memorable Archbishop Edmund Farhat from Lebanon to celebrate the divine mysteries with a copy of the Volto Santo in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome on January 17, 2016. For Father Carmine, as rector of the Basilica in Manoppello at that time, had come up with the idea of introducing a third annual feast for the veneration of the Volto Santo during the “Jubilee of Mercy” that Pope Francis had proclaimed for the year 2016. And the Sunday Omnis terra, in memory of the pioneering initiative of Innocent III in the distant year 1208, was simply the most suitable for this.

 But I also remember, as if it were yesterday, how I was able to accompany Pope Benedict XVI on his “private pilgrimage” here on September 1, 2006, when he had decided, despite much resistance, to visit and venerate the Volto Santo in Manoppello as the first Pope in over 400 years, shortly before visiting his Bavarian homeland. And now it seems to me almost like divine providence that at that time he had chosen the same passage from the Gospel of John that we have just heard, in order to put into the following words his thoughts on this historic encounter before the Capuchin friars and faithful gathered here with the holy veil:

During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two Apostles who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River […]. The Evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: “What do you seek?” And they answered him, “Rabbi […] where are you staying?” And he said to them, “Come and see.” That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable experience which prompted them to say: “We have found the Messiah.” The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple “rabbi” had acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited for centuries. But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples! They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his “Face” would prove, so that even after living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him say at the Last Supper: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?” And then the words that sum up the novelty of Jesus’ revelation: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

 Thus far Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006.

 If we take his word, and this word of the Lord, quite seriously, we see the Father also here, where the Son reveals his essence to us forever, and where we see: He lives – as Savior and Redeemer.

 Pope Benedict had not come barefoot like Pope Innocent, but by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to Manoppello at the invitation of Archbishop Bruno Forte, and I still remember very vividly every moment of that meeting, as well as May 15, 2009, when Benedict XVI visited the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, from which the veil of the Volto Santo — as well as the Shroud of Turin — originates as incomparable news of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It cannot be otherwise. After the spectacular visit of Pope Paul VI on January 4, 1964, the empty tomb of Christ in Jerusalem has also been visited by Pope John Paul II in March 2000 and Pope Francis in May 2014. Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Manoppello on September 1, 2006, on the other hand, can only be compared to the procession through which Pope Innocent III made known the “True Icon,” popularly known as “Veronica,” in Western Christendom more than 800 years ago. Pope Benedict, however, on September 1, 2006, brought the personal and “human face of God” back to the Church and to all the world. He came all alone and not in the entourage of his advisors or the canons of Saint Peter. And he came shyly and reservedly, as is his way, and only for contemplation and prayer. A celebration of the Eucharist or a public blessing with the Volto Santo was not thought of at that time. But then thousands of pilgrims followed him here, who in his footsteps carried the sentence from the Gospel of John around the whole world: “Come and see!”

 Church history will record this forever. And for this, the civil authorities of the city of Manoppello already gave him the keys of your City at the Vatican on November 3, 2010, in the presence of Archbishop Bruno Forte. For this I thank you again with all my heart, as well as all the friars of the Capuchin Order and all the citizens of Manoppello, and today I thank you again especially and personally for the precious privilege of celebrating the Holy Eucharist here with you for all the sick and suffering of all the earth, under the merciful gaze of Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world!”


Archbishop Georg Gänswein

Prefect of the Papal Household

January 17, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Omnis Terra to be Celebrated on Sunday January 17 at the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello


This Sunday January 17 at 11am  there will take place at the Basilica of the Holy Face of Manoppello the annual celebration of the feast of Omnis Terra, intimately linked to the image of the Holy Face and celebrated beginning in the 13th century at Rome and reintroduced to Rome ten years after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who accompanied Pope Benedict XVI  to Manoppello on September 1, 2006.and then celebrated Omnis Terra in the Roman church of Santo Spirito in Sassia on January 16, 2016, delivering a historic homily, will be the presider for the Eucharistic celebration and solemn blessing with the image of the Holy Face in Manoppello this year.

The celebration will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Shrine

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Passing of Brother Vincenzo D'Elpidio, the Friar Seeker, Sower of Hope

Brother Vincenzo in front of Statue of Saint Padre Pio

by Antonio Bini

In the friary of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows at  Pescara, following a short illness, the industrious earthly life of Brother Vincenzo D'ElpidIo has come to an end. A popular and much-beloved figure, Brother Vincenzo was a gentle giant, in size, as well as in his extraordinary generosity and above all in his ability to listen, comfort and encourage the many suffering people who came to him each day from all over Italy and also from abroad, as demonstrated by the article published by the German Catholic agency CNA - Catholic News Agency, by Dirk Weisbrod , which tells of his encounter with the friar who is considered among the last heirs of Padre Pio. The Life and Death of Vincenzo D'Elpidio

I met Brother Vincenzo almost twenty years ago, at the beginning of my research focused on studying the figure of Padre Domenico da Cese and his relationship with the Holy Face and with Padre Pio. It goes without saying that, for Brother Vincenzo, the authenticity of the Holy Face, as for his friend Padre Domenico, was beyond dispute.

Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese, Apostle of the Holy Face

I then wrote a first article in 2005 in which I drew attention to Brother Vincenzo’s testimony regarding Padre Domenico. Over the years our meetings became frequent. He was happy with my commitment, if I didn't come to visit or if he didn’t hear from  me, he would call me on the telephone. I felt his affection, he gave suggestions, he explained singular episodes of the life of Padre Domenico, of his own relationship with Padre Pio that then appeared in an article published in a national weekly. On that occasion he had even asked me to assist him in his meeting with the journalist.  I updated him on the spread of devotion to the Holy Face and the interest in Padre Domenico, to whom he had been a brotherly friend and later an extraordinary advocate for his cause for beatification to which he was strongly committed, having begun this work ten years after Padre Domenico’s death, which took place on September 17, 1978 in Turin, where he had gone to witness the exhibition of the Holy Shroud. Padre Domenico appeared in a dream to Brother Vincenzo imploring him to honor the request of so many devotees who had sent him money – as was used in the past  – for the celebration of  Masses. Brother Vincenzo went to the Shrine of the Holy Face where he verified the existence of two large boxes containing numerous letters still unopened addressed to the deceased Capuchin. He opened them, left the money with the religious superior, had some Masses celebrated, and asked permission to consult the letters which told of extraordinary facts or simple requests for help from Padre Domenico. 

Br. Vincenzo leading devotees of Padre Domenico in prayer at the Shrine of the Holy Face

Starting with this documentation he began, together with Bruno Sammaciccia, scholar of the Holy Face and friend of Padre Domenico, the search for contacts and  further testimonies that then became fundamental for the start of the beatification process,  while not lacking difficulties to overcome due to the hostility of some skeptical confreres who could be counted at most on the fingers of one hand compared to those of the entire Province of the Capuchins of Abruzzo. The work continued in the following years with the collaboration of Padre Domenico's niece, Caterina Petracca, together with her husband Franco Di Lorenzo, who died a few years ago, until the Capuchin Order made the decision to propose to the Archbishop of Chieti, Mons. Bruno Forte, the formal start of the beatification process, with the first phase ending in March 2015 with the granting of the go-ahead (“nulla osta”) from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  Since that time Padre Domenico has the title of  Servant of God.

Br. Vincenzo with author Paul Badde filming EWTN documentary
on the life of Padre Domenico da Cese  --

Brother Vincenzo foresaw his death. Last February he asked me to help him write his farewell message to the vast community of people who knew him, and who had been following him for many years. He was having difficulty with his right shoulder which he had fractured a few months earlier. I wrote down his thoughts. Then at home I transcribed the text to the computer. He told me to print two copies and  then he signed them both, keeping one – which in the following days he entrusted to the superior of the Friary – and asked me to keep the other which I should disseminate in case – for whatever reason – the Father Guardian did not, being his deep desire to reach the many people whom he had known over time. In September, contrary to previous years, not feeling very well, he wanted to entrust me with his message of greeting to the devotees of Padre Domenico gathered on  September 20 in Manoppello, on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the death of the Servant of God. On that occasion, Father Carmine Cucinelli, then rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face, asked me to read the message at the beginning of Mass, aware of the importance that Brother Vincenzo had for so many devotees of Padre Domenico da Cese who were waiting for Brother Vincenzo’s presence.

But getting back to his farewell message. Brother Vincenzo managed to summarize in a few simple sentences the essence of his long religious life, inspired by the poor man of Assisi, with the memory of Padre Pio, who at the beginning of the 1960’s strongly advised him to stay in Pescara, among the people, instead of choosing the cloistered life. Padre Pio was not wrong. As a friar seeking alms, among the people, in the villages and the countryside he had the opportunity to get in touch with many people becoming very well known as the "friar seeker" ("frate cercatore") a figure linked above all to the world of the small farmer. He went about first, on foot, then in a horse drawn buggy and finally in a Piaggio Ape (small three wheeled vehicle) with the words “pace e bene” (peace and good) written on the front.   (see

Significant his reference to Padre Domenico da Cese, in stating that he followed over the years " the teaching of various confreres and in particular that of the Servant of God Padre Domenico da Cese, of the Shrine of the Holy Face. For me he was an extraordinary example of dedication to the Church and of tireless attention to others, whom he welcomed from morning to night, listened to, comforted and invited to prayer and to live in the faith of the Lord." He writes above all that he felt " close to him in the years after his death "so much so that "some people, who were Padre Domenico’s spiritual children, felt they glimpsed in me something of His figure, even from the physical point of view". Then with his usual humility he acknowledges that he is "only a poor friar, not worthy of being compared to the Servant of God."

Br. Vincenzo at Annual Celebration of Padre Domenico at the Shrine of the Holy Face

Yet that "closeness" which Brother Vincenzo describes, was truly perceived in everyday reality by many who felt him to be in continuity with the Servant of God. This was the case for the associations of the Holy Face of Ruvo di Puglia and of Andria – formed by Sister Amalia Di Rella, spiritual daughter of Padre Domenico da Cese. Apart from physical similarities, there was no lack of common charisms. As his age advanced Brother Vincenzo's activity as "seeker" had become much less frequent so that he  could devote himself more to listening to needy or despairing people who turned to him, even if simply for advice or a word of hope. In 1979 the then Archbishop of Pescara Mons. Antonio Iannucci granted him the power of special minister of the Eucharist and authorized him to give a blessing. On Saturdays and Sundays he received many people in the Shrine who lined up to talk to him. In many cases he hugged them, clutching them at length praying, even imposing his hands on their head.  At times I saw him embrace entire  nuclear families. Many felt something mysterious.  One had the impression of receiving positive energy,  but also affectionate attention, with liberation from anxieties and worries. This all took place publicly. There were numerous people who regained peace and serenity, while others regained their faith.

In recent years, spending most of his time in his room, he received many phone calls from people from all over Italy and even from abroad asking for his blessing. In the friary he had his own telephone line, which callers would  rarely find without a busy signal. Since the beginning of November, the growing number of telephone calls from many people worried about not receiving answers –since Brother Vincenzo was being cared for in the friary infirmary – had led the friars to deactivate the telephone line.

At the end of his Funeral Mass, Brother Vincenzo’s message of farewell was read, to great emotion, by the superior of the Shrine Father Franco Nanni. Many people occupied the large space outside the friary following the anti-Covid restrictions. Assisting in keeping order during the service were members of the Prayer Groups of Padre Pio, who at the Shrine have as their guide Father Guglielmo Alimonti, who was close to Padre Pio.

A long heartfelt applause accompanied the conclusion of the reading, with many people in tears. It is certainly no coincidence that the newspaper Il Messaggero, in reporting news of the death of Brother Vincenzo, had written of "sorrow to the Hills” ("dolore ai Colli"), alluding to the populous district in which the Shrine is present. 

During Mass, the presider Father Matteo Siro, who since last July has been leading the province of the Capuchins of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Umbria, highlighted the  uncommon human and religious qualities of the friar who "made Jesus and his gospel approachable", with many people  "having found in him a welcoming heart who knew how to lift up the most heartbroken souls, the most disintegrated families, the poor and also many pregnant women who in their hearts had decided to have an abortion". But with "simple evangelical and persuasive words Brother Vincenzo convinced them to welcome the life that was in them", as confirmed by several testimonies. It is not to be excluded that some of these saved lives were present, blending in among the crowd, which also included many young people.

The action of the good friar also continued in the case of poor families, providing them material aid when possible. In fact, his "questua" (seeking) represented a basic means of social distribution for the local community, collecting offerings of money, oil, wine, wheat, and food -  which were needed to support the Friary and the minor seminary (when it was active)  -  Brother Vincenzo had the opportunity to generously redistribute what was collected in favor of those in need. In various circumstances he also made many boys feel his concern and advice. For this intense activity in 2008 he received public recognition with the award  "Socially useful men", as part of an event organized at the Massimo theater in Pescara.

Brother Vincenzo Sabatino D'Elpidio was born in Guardia Vomano, in the province of Teramo, on February 16, 1932. In 1952, after listening to a preacher who had come to his town- Father Pio Palandrani da Mosciano Sant'Angelo - he made the decision to follow his example, entering the Capuchin friary of Sulmona. Unfortunately, his desire to study and become a priest could not be fulfilled for reasons of age, having limited his studies to the attendance of elementary school only.  They advised him to remain as a religious brother, telling him that he could "become a saint rather than a priest". But this perspective was not easy for Brother Vincenzo to accept at first, though he devoted himself to the personal deepening of his ascetic knowledge and that of doctrinal scriptures, with the constant desire to do better and work for his own salvation and that of the souls to whom he would minister. His limited culture was largely compensated for by his extraordinary faith, so much so that Father Carmine Ranieri, who in recent years was provincial of the Capuchins of Abruzzo, learning the news of his passing, described him as "a man of rock solid faith and great energy which flowed from his physical might."

After nine months they sent him to the Friary of Penne, where he began the novitiate, making his simple profession on February 13, 1954. In early 1960 he was assigned to the Friary of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows where he remained until his death. It was back then a rural area above the hill, with few houses around the friary, which over the years the friar saw grow disproportionately until it became a city within the city.  For years he carried out the tasks of seeker of alms ("questuante"), cook, farmer, wine maker, sacristan, all which kept him busy from morning to night, even neglecting his health and never losing his simplicity and his proverbial good mood.

Br. Vincenzo with Paul and Ellen Badde

Also the German writer and journalist Paul Badde, author of "Face of God" (history of the Holy Face of Manoppello), at the news of Brother Vincenzo and  seeing the images with the immense crowd present at the funeral despite the health restrictions, wrote to me " He was a saint indeed. No one will take his place." 

Br. Vincenzo and Antonio Bini

My last meeting with Brother Vincenzo took place on October 23rd.  At that time he asked me to personally take care of the reprinting of the book containing his testimonies regarding Padre Domenico da Cese, which he himself had provided in previous years,  distributing them  free of charge. Even this last circumstance allows me to conclude by stating that these two  friars  - exemplary expressions of the most authentic Franciscan charism  - today seem to resume a common path, also in the popular imagination of very many people.



Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner presenting Br. Vincenzo with copies of her book  Servant of God, Padre Domenico Da Cese, O.F.M. Capuchin, An Illustrated Biography