By Carmen Elena Villa
TURIN, Italy, MAY 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Turin has been transformed in the last 44 days for the display of the cloth believed to have enshrouded Christ’s body in the tomb.
The city has welcomed some 2 million pilgrims to see its most famous possession: the Shroud of Turin. The exposition concluded today.
Since April 10, lines stretching for miles started forming at 6:30 a.m., with thousands of people waiting to enter the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, where the Shroud is kept.
A DVD with a complete documentary and books on the Shroud were sold; men and women distributed booklets with cultural activities in Turin, prayers and holy cards; volunteers gave away free copies of a special edition of the Turin archdiocesan newspaper, “La Voce del Popolo.” This was the environment of the last month and a half during which the Shroud once again went on display and was observed and contemplated by so many new eyes from various countries throughout the world.
Curious and faithful
Many pilgrims arrived in buses, in groups from nearby dioceses, parishes, orders and ecclesial movements. Others came on their own by train, plane or car. There were skeptics and the merely curious who did not want to miss the exhibition. The reasons that brought so many people to Turin are various, but all united by a single name: Jesus of Nazareth.
In the long lines one heard comments in a multitude of languages about the curiosity and the enigma of this linen cloth and the particularities that have been discovered in recent years (its three-dimesionality, details about the image, the presence of pollens from 2,000 years ago that were only found in Jerusalem, the Carbon 14 test …).
“We will leave to serious scientists and historians — not to a priori prejudices — the task of evaluating and resolving the questions about the authenticity of the Shroud,” said the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto, in declarations to “La Voce del Popolo.” “For us it is enough that those who have studied it carefully and with objective scientific criteria have not succeeded in explaining how that image formed, concluding that it is definitely not manufactured — and so many probabilities in favor of its authenticity retain a basis.”
Around 4,000 volunteers — the youngest 16 and the oldest 86 — worked three and a half hour shifts each day to help manage the exhibit’s organization. Dressed in distinctive violet t-shirts, they offered their time to provide information to tourists and watch over the flow of people into the entrance. Some 800 of the volunteers were in charge of wheelchairs for the handicapped so that they would be able to see the Shroud. Nearly 100 of the volunteers led the recitation of a special prayer each time a new group of pilgrims arrived.
Those who led the prayer also left time for silence and recollection. After five minutes in front of the display the pilgrims moved on to let the next group come in. The faithful who wanted were permitted to remain in the cathedral to pray and look at the Shroud from a greater distance.
The volunteers answered “the simpler questions, like those about the times and the logistics of the visit,” said Carlo Stroppiana, their coordinator for this event. “They also made some recommendations about the proper conduct, reminding people that they could not use cameras in the church.”
To maintain the spirit of prayer, various tents were set up to administer the sacrament of penance (200 priests were present and confession was available in various languages, with a special confessional for the handicapped) and a tent for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which was typically full.
For many of the faithful, seeing the Shroud was a fundamental moment for faith and spirituality. “Looking at the Shroud, I thought about how real and human Jesus was. The Shroud was for me the testament of the reality of Jesus’ sufferings and his unity with us in humanity,” Regina Glassi, a university student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, studying in Rome for a semester, told ZENIT.
There were cultural events also connected with the exhibit, the most important being that titled “Jesus: The Body Wrapped in Art,” an exhibition with works depicting the various phases in the life of Christ, created in different periods and with different techniques.
The exhibit contains 150 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, frescoes and miniatures. The artists range from Michelangelo to Rubens, from Donatello to Correggio. The show will be open until the beginning of August.
In regard to the logistics for the Shroud exhibit, the mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, underscored “the effort of an entire community, religious and lay, to welcome in the best possible way the many people who have come to us.”
The 2010 exhibit was an event that awed hundreds of thousands of faithful, who, finding themselves before this mysterious and fascinating linen cloth were able to conclude, like Blessed Sebastiano Valfré: “The Shroud is a sign of Jesus comparable to the cross, but with this particularity: The cross received Jesus alive and gave him death. The Shroud, instead, received him dead and restored him to us alive.”