By Ann Schneible. .- Pope Francis prayed before the Shroud of Turin on Sunday and reflected on the role the reputed burial cloth of Jesus Christ can play in Christian spiritual life.
“The Shroud attracts (us) toward the martyred face and body of Jesus,” the Pope said June 21.
“At the same time, it pushes (us) toward the face of every suffering and unjustly persecuted person. It pushes us in the same direction as the gift of Jesus’ love,” the pontiff said during his noontime Angelus address at Turin’s Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
Earlier that morning Pope Francis had visited the Shroud of Turin, housed in Turin’s Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
The cathedral is kept dark while the shroud is on display. The Pope spent several minutes in silent prayer before the relic. He then approached the shroud’s reliquary and touched it.
The Shroud of Turin is among the most well-known relics believed to be connected with Christ’s Passion. The burial shroud is a little more than 14 feet long and three-and-a-half feet wide. It bears the image of the front and back of a man who has been brutally tortured and crucified.
The relic has been venerated for centuries by Christians as the burial shroud of Jesus. It has been subject to intense scientific study to consider its authenticity and origins. The Catholic Church has not taken an official position on the relic’s authenticity.
Pope Francis, after praying before the shroud, then visited to the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who is buried in a nearby altar. Frassati, a Turin native and a patron of young people, spent much of his short life leading others to Christ, serving the poor, and working for social reform. He died of polio at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925.
Some family members of Blessed Pier Giorgio were at the cathedral for the Pope’s visit. Others present included elderly priests and cloistered nuns, a group of the city’s local canons, and members of the commission dedicated to preserving the Shroud.
The pontiff’s visit to the shroud was part of his two-day visit to the northern Italian city. He arrived in Turin early on Sunday, and is scheduled to return to Rome on Monday afternoon.
Before his visit to the Shroud of Turin, the Pope met with a group of workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs in Turin’s Piazza Rebaudengo. After his stop at the Turin cathedral, he presided over Sunday morning Mass in Piazza Vittorio. He then met with the sick and disabled in the afternoon at the Church of Cottolengo.
This year’s papal visit coincides with a rare exposition of the shroud, which will be on public display from April 19 to June 24. The shroud was last on display in 2010.
The papal visit also marks the bicentenary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, founder of the Salesian order. He is known for his work with young people, particularly disadvantaged youth like street children and juvenile delinquents.