According to Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, the three events of the Exposition of the Holy Shroud, of the Bicentenary of Don Bosco and the Pope’s visit, are the sign of God’s assistance to suffering humanity.
It is a special year for the diocese of Turin with two superimposed events — the extraordinary Exposition of the Holy Shroud and the Bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco –, which will be crowned by the Holy Father’s visit.
The city of the “social Saints” is preparing to live an epochal time that will stimulate in the faithful a profound reflection on the human being and, in particular, on suffering and death, which Christ conquered.
In an interview with ZENIT, the Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, illustrated some particularities of these three events, reflecting particularly on their spiritual significance.
ZENIT: These months are very busy ones for the Church in Turin: the Bicentenary of the Birth of Don Bosco (with the numerous events of the Salesian Family), the forthcoming Exposition of the Holy Shroud and Pope Francis’ future visit. In your opinion, beyond the commitment and efforts of the city and the local Church to organize them in the best way, what ideally brings these three events together?
Archbishop Nosiglia: One of the elements that associates the Exposition of the Holy Shroud, the Bicentenary of the Birth of Saint John Bosco and Pope Francis’ visit is the city of Turin, which we can rightly consider a true and proper “capital of faith.” The very intense succession of events that will be witnessed in the months of the Shroud will highlight this vocation of our city, a vocation that comes from far back, sealed by the preaching and action of so many other social Saints that have made Turin and its surroundings fertile territory for thier action.
And in Turin itself and in the whole surrounding territory the Exposition
of the Shroud will be the occasion to launch numerous cultural and artistic initiatives linked to topics of the Shroud. Found on the Website www.sindone.org are indications of the main events. Moreover, news and objects of great interest linked to the Cloth are kept in the Museum of the Shroud (www.sindone.it), which gathers important historical testimonies and proposes a historical and scientific “course of reading.” Also the diocesan Museum (www.museodiocesanotorino.it), located in the crypt of the Duomo [Cathedral] gives significant examples of sacred art of Turin and Piedmont and, in the period of the Exposition, it will host works linked to topics of the Lord’s Passion. In particular, from April 16 to June 30 Blessed Angelico’s Mourning over the Dead Christ will be exhibited. Obviously, there is no direct relation between a picture and the image of the Cloth. However, one and the other call us forcefully to “see” that it is the center of the Shroud pilgrimage. The whole Exposition calls us to this: to contemplate the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, not as a moment of “aesthetic” fruition, but rather as a strong call to reflect on the meaning of our life and our death.
We can speak of a true and proper crescendo in the collaboration between dioceses and territories around the Shroud, especially for the Expositions. We can review the history of the last Expositions: in 1978 the Church organized the great event on her own, but the City put on a very qualified program of collateral manifestations: September music is one of the fruits born of that context. Since 1998 local entities have flanked the dioceses in a stable way in the preparation of the Exposition, through the Organizing Committee. In 2010 and even more so in 2015 others subjects were added, such as the banking Foundations and other enterprises and the collaboration was requested of businesses: it is about assessing how much it might serve to reduce costs, but also to stress the strong link between all the subjects of the territory that are protagonists, who try to create a “system” around the Exposition.
ZENIT: Can it be said that the Shroud and Don Bosco are both the testimony of the weakness of human nature and the greatness of the divine plan. The Holy Shroud could represent the limits of human nature that must meet with suffering and death. On the other hand, Don Bosco embodies the story of a man that, entrusting himself to Mary, Help of Christians, left from a country town and took his charism to the world. What are your thoughts in this regard?
Archbishop Nosiglia: There is an association between the word and the action of Saint John Bosco and the message that Jesus wants to transmit to us through the contemplation of the Shroud: both bring comfort and encouragement to one who is toiling, both wish to express the most profound solidarity to suffering humanity. During his visit in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said to us that the Shroud is there to witness that unique and unrepeatable intervention in the history of humanity in which God, through Jesus Christ, has shared not only our dying but also our staying in death, and this is the most radical solidarity. God made man reached the point of entering in man’s extreme and absolute solitude, where there is no ray of love, where total abandonment reigns without a word of comfort. Staying in death, Jesus went beyond the door of this ultimate solitude, to lead us also to go beyond it with him. All of us have felt sometime a frightening sensation of abandonment and this is in fact what frightens us most about death. As when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and only the presence of a person that loved us could reassure us. See, to use the word of your question, the grandeur of the divine plan grappling with human weakness: death is no longer the same after Christ went thorough it. The Shroud speaks in fact of the moment in which Christ is inside death. It shows us that now that place also is mysteriously inhabited by his presence. It shows us that he can also accompany us there, of course, to lead us beyond.
ZENIT: Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of a humble Church close to the weakest. What else does the Shroud and the Passion of Christ represent but the importance of humility for a Christian! And also the human event of Don Bosco: how many difficulties were overcome! What, then, can the Church of Turin learn from this visit?
Archbishop Nosiglia: It is precisely by thinking of the world of the sick and of young people that Pope Francis has granted the solemn Exposition, which is linked to the jubilee for the second centenary of the birth of Saint John Bosco. The Pope’s visit will put a very precious sign to the 2015 Exposition, whose motto is The Greatest Love, to stress the profound bond between the love of God for us – for each one of us! – and the love, the charity that we are called to live in the service of brothers. It is an occasion to experience those two forms of love, divine and fraternal, which together have the faculty to unite peoples, to solicit brotherhood, altruism, generosity, especially at a historical crossroads such as the present one, in which the threat of hatred and fanaticism is very strong. In fact in the perspective of a Church close to the weakest, pilgrims in conditions of suffering, whose reception is a constant characteristic of the Exposition, will find particular care in the liturgies, in the time dedicated to them, in the pastoral initiatives linked to the 2015 Event. There are also concrete novelties: the Health pastoral of the diocese of Turin has organized two structures of reception for the sick and those accompanying them who wish to visit the Shroud. In the “Maria Adelaide” and “Cottolengo” hospitals very close to the Duomo, there will be 70 bed places available, organized on the model of the Lourdes accueil, with the possibility of consuming meals at fixed prices. Oth
er reception places for short says are planned near the premises of the Sermig, at Borgo Dora, a short distance from the Cathedral. It is a unique experience of hospitality in the world, because the whole diocese of Turin is “mobilized” to meet the pilgrims. In addition to the volunteers that come from the various communities, the parishes themselves are organizing moments of encounter with other communities of pilgrims, offering hospitality in homes or religious institutes for many coming from afar. For this Exposition, then, particular and important moments of encounter are being prepared with young people, the sick, the Salesian world. The Church of Turin will learn much from the Pontiff’s visit and his message of charity and love, just as it will be able to draw teaching from the example and the testimony of each of the pilgrims who would like to come here to meditate on the dramatic reality of the Passion and Death of Jesus.