VATICAN CITY, AUG. 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will pray for peace during his visit to the shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.
Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto said today on Vatican Radio that with this visit on Friday, the Pope will fulfill a promise he made when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to visit the shrine.
The archbishop, who worked with Cardinal Ratzinger when the latter was president of the International Theological Commission, spoke with the cardinal about the scientific studies carried out on the relic kept in the shrine.
The Shrine of the Holy Face houses what is said to be Veronica’s veil.
“We had spoken before he became Pope and he wished to visit this place to pray before this image,” said Archbishop Forte.
“Then he was elected Pope and it seemed his visit would be very difficult. However, on the occasion of a meeting with the International Theological Commission, of which he formed part, I renewed my invitation and he, with great spontaneity, told me he would come,” said the archbishop.
“The pilgrimage is of an eminently spiritual nature: The Pope is coming to pray and to venerate the image of the Face of Jesus,” he said.
“The Pope wishes to entrust to the face of mercy the important prayer intentions he bears in his heart for humanity and for the whole Church, beginning with peace,” and the “safeguarding of creation,” as on Sept. 1 the Church in Italy celebrates the Day of Safeguarding Creation.
The visit, added the prelate, “does not address the merit of questions of a historical nature which today are the center of scholars’ attention.”
Some historians believe it is the face of Veronica’s veil, while others maintain that it is the veil in which Jesus’ face was wrapped along with the Holy Shroud of Turin.
The Pope will arrive in Manoppello, in the Italian region of the Abruzzo, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Rome, around 9:45 a.m.
Archbishop Forte will welcome the Pope, along with the rector of the shrine, and by civil and military authorities.
The Pope will adore the Eucharist in silence, venerate the relic and deliver an address.
At 11:30 a.m. the Pontiff will leave Manoppello and return to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter.
According to the shrine, the Holy Face is a veil of 17 by 24 centimeters (6.8 by 9.6 inches), on which an image is imprinted that to date has no scientific explanation. Studies carried out on the veil confirm that the image is not made from paint.
Iconographer B. Pascalis Shlömer has demonstrated that the image of the Holy Shroud of Turin coincides perfectly with the Holy Face of Manoppello, according to the shrine.
Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, professor of iconography and Christian art history at the Gregorian University in Rome, said that this image served as model for subsequent representations of the Holy Face, including portraits in the fourth-century Roman catacombs.
This year marks the fifth centenary of the arrival of this sacred image in the Abruzzo region.
To pilgrims who visit the shrine and fulfill the prescribed conditions, the Holy See’s Apostolic Penitentiary grants a plenary indulgence during the local jubilee year.