Francis encouraged the faithful to allow themselves to be reached by the gaze of Christ, “which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart.” He said this in a video message to accompany an Italian television live broadcast of the Shroud of Turin, which took place on Holy Saturday.
The shroud is believed to be Jesus’ burial cloth.
It was shown live on the Italian state broadcaster RAI on Saturday from 5:10 p.m. to 6:40 p.m. local time and streamed live on RAI’s Web site.
“Even if it takes place in this way [via television], we do not merely ‘look,’ but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze,” Francis said. “I would go further: we are in fact looked upon ourselves. This face has eyes that are closed, it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us. How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.”
The shroud’s first live telecast was 40 years ago in November 1973, under the papacy of Paul VI, and it has been shown on television many times; but Holy Saturday’s event was to be only the second time televised live.
“Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart. In silence, let us listen to what he has to say to us from beyond death itself,” Francis added.
The Holy Father said that through the shroud, “the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power.”
He added that the disfigured face resembles those who suffer in every way.
“And yet,” Francis said, “at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty. It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.”
The shroud continues to be a subject of intense debate among scientists, theologians, historians and researchers. The Vatican has not officially recognized is as a relic of Jesus, but neither has it discouraged popular devotion.
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Full text of Francis’ message: www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-message-for-shroud-of-turin-broadcast