U.S. Catholics Flocking to Manoppello

imageAlan Holdren reporting in the National Catholic Register:

ROME — The Shrine to the Holy Face of Christ, tucked into Italy’s Apennine Mountains, is starting to catch the attention of the world, particularly that of American Catholics.

“We have a lot of Italians, of course, and many Germans, but now we’re seeing more and more pilgrims from the U.S.,” said Trappist Sister Blandina Paschalis Schloemer, a daily pilgrim who lives within eye-shot of the shrine.

The modest basilica houses a curious image of the face of Jesus Christ. Depending on the light, it is at times visible and at other times transparent.

Sister Blandina herself proved that the face is exactly proportionate to that on the Shroud of Turin, but whereas in the shroud, Christ’s eyes are closed, here they are open.

Some believe the image is the storied “veil of Veronica,” the cloth Veronica in the Gospel used to dry Christ’s face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the “Resurrection cloth,” a sudarium that covered Christ’s face in the tomb. Still others take it as a centuries-old hoax.

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Just last weekend, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston offered an introduction to an exhibit on the “Holy Face” unveiled in New York City. While the Capuchin cardinal avoided taking sides on the debate of the image’s provenance, he did allude to the strength of such depictions.

“Images of Christ have the power to move our hearts; they can catechize without words and allow us to contemplate the beautiful face of God revealed in his own Son,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his introduction.