The city of Turin is preparing for the arrival of Pope Benedict and an estimated 100,000 other pilgrims this weekend. The city's archbishop told reporters on Thursday, that he hopes the visit will be celebrated in the future and serve as an impetus for increased evangelization.
The Holy Father will be traveling to the northern Italian city on Sunday morning and returning to the Vatican in the evening. The day will see him celebrate Mass with 25,000 people in the open air of St. Charles Square, officiate a youth celebration, venerate the Shroud in the cathedral and visit with the sick.
Speaking to journalists at a press conference reported by Vatican Radio on Thursday, Cardinal Severino Poletto of Turin called the visit "an exceptional event," especially as it pertains to grace. It's an occasion, he said, "to give new impetus to the faith."
The visit is particularly significant for two reasons: it is both "a pastoral visit to the city and a moment of reflection and prayer before the Shroud," he said.
Cardinal Poletto has repeatedly called the much-awaited meditation by the Pope on Christ's passion "the most precious gift of this exposition."
The cardinal also emphasized that the exposition of the Shroud and the Pope's visit will be continue to be celebrated into the future. They aren't "occasional events" after which the city "turns the page and the day after returns to live as before," he said.
"For me they are ... moments of growth, of development, of future commitment so that our Church might be always more up to the task of taking on the challenges of the times, especially the challenge of evangelization."
Since its opening on April 10, the Shroud has been seen by an estimated 450,000 of the 1.7 million people who have pre-booked tickets for the exposition, which runs until May 23. 100,000 pilgrims are expected for this weekend alone according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.