TURIN, Italy, APRIL 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin, which began Saturday, will have 1.5 million visitors before it closes on May 23.
On the first day of the exposition, over 12,000 people viewed the Shroud, 480 of whom came from abroad to the Cathedral of Turin to venerate what is believed to be the cloth Christ was buried in.
The next day, the Feast of Divine Mercy, 48,325 pilgrims were counted.
Chris and Mary Anne Yep, who traveled from Chicago with their children to see the Shroud on Sunday, spoke with ZENIT about their experience.
They spoke about waiting in long lines for hours in the cold rain among many people who did not have umbrellas.
Mary Anne noted that she was impacted by “the variety of races of people who came to this pilgrimage site to see for themselves this ‘photograph’ of the Risen Jesus Christ whom they had heard so much about.”
Although 93% of the 1.5 million ticket reservations have been obtained by Italians, around 13,000 visitors are coming from the Americas, with 9,000 from the United States.
Another 60,000 passes were requested by Western Europeans, including 22,000 from France, 12,000 from Germany, 9,000 from Spain, and more than 7,000 from Sweden.
From Eastern Europe, 30,000 pilgrims are traveling, including 10,000 from Poland and 7,000 from Russia.
From Asia, almost 2,000 have reserved tickets. Other groups are coming from Africa and Oceania.
The experience of waiting in the rain together with pilgrims from across the globe was a good preparation for the exhibition, Mary Anne said, because it “helped us to unite with Christ’s sufferings.”
“The first time I saw the Shroud,” she noted, “I cried at the intensity it conveyed, the intensity of a man’s suffering, which equaled the intensity of his love for us.”
Chris observed that “Christ continues to provide such visible signs (such as the Shroud) so that all may believe.”
He noted that just as “Jesus was patient with Thomas,” telling him to “place your hand in my side,” he is also “patient with each of us, finding so many ways to be present to us.”
The Yeps’ son, Peter, a college student, said, “At times living out our faith can seem so abstract,” since we as humans are “so prone to the practical and sensible.”
He told ZENIT that “opportunities like seeing the Shroud of Turin” help “to find some practical application in the faith we proclaim.”
“Seeing the Shroud brought the story of the Passion to real life,” Peter said. “It made all that we believe in the Eucharist a living reality.”
After attending Mass at an altar in front of the Shroud’s glass display case, Chris said: “The view during the consecration of the Body and Blood, directly in front of Christ’s image on his burial cloth, was such a strong statement.
“Christ gave his life for us, and continues to give himself to us each day in the Mass. The two images were inseparable.”
On Monday, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, was among the 30,000 people who viewed the Shroud.
He led a group of 200 Austrians, and gave a reflection on the mystery of Holy Saturday.
Today, representatives from the Italian Diplomatic Corps visited Turin with their families.
Benedict XVI is scheduled to make a pilgrimage to Turin on May 2.
On Sunday, a group of 4,500 military from the Italian Armed Forces will view the Shroud along with 500 pilgrims from the movement Communion and Liberation. The evening before, 500 youth from Ancona, Italy, will be present.
Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin and Custodian of the Holy Shroud, reminds all pilgrims that “the exposition is first of all a spiritual event.”
He stated, “The fruits I hoped for from this exposition are conversion of heart and concrete help offered to others.”
[With the contribution of Chiara Santomiero and Genevieve Pollock]
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Cardinal Schönborn’s reflection: http://zenit.org/article-28890?l=english