.- The first exposition of the Shroud of Turin in the new millennium has officially come to a close after a little more than six weeks. Cardinal Severino Poletto, the guardian of the Shroud, said that those who visited need to safeguard in their hearts everything they saw and received that enriched their faith.
From April 10 to May 23, the Shroud was seen by more than 2.1 million pilgrims, according to the final count. Cardinal Archbishop of Turin Severino Poletto reflected on the significance of the occasion at the end of the exposition while offering the closing Mass along with bishops and priests of the Italian Piedmont region.
The event was organized "to give the possibility to all who would come to venerate it and experience the gift that is received when one enters into the symphony of faith and prayer with the sufferings of Christ, which are the 'master way' for participating also in the grace of his resurrection," Cardinal Poletto said at the beginning of Mass.
“(W)hat has been accomplished in the six weeks of the Exposition and the Eucharist we are celebrating is our thanksgiving for having the privilege to see the marvels that the Lord has brought about with his salvific activity in the hearts of the people," the cardinal said.
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Poletto told reporters on Saturday that "surely the more than two million pilgrims that came and prayed, meditated and maybe confessed ... returned home richer in faith.
"Therefore the spiritual fruit of this Exposition was enormous."
In Sunday's homily, he spoke of his own spiritual experience during the 45-day exposition. He said that he was greatly moved by seeing the image of the Crucified Christ, having "fixed his loving gaze on the impressive signs of human suffering confronted by Jesus in His passion and death."
The cardinal was also struck by the sheer number of pilgrims who came "in search of a Face," to confirm their faith, to venerate, confess and cry, having "felt embraced by the love of Christ," perceived "so close by" in the Shroud.
"Now," the Archbishop of Turin said, "we have the duty ... to safeguard in our hearts everything we have seen and received as an enrichment of our faith."
Before the Mass, a message from Pope Benedict XVI was read in which he gave thanks to the Church in Turin for "the exquisite reception and profuse organizational commitment, for the numerous attestations of esteem and of affection received from the diverse ecclesial and civil realities."
The Holy Father made a pilgrimage to the Shroud on May 2, during which time he celebrated an outdoor Mass, met with youth and the sick and gave a meditation called "Passion of Christ, Passion of Man."
After the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, the Shroud was returned to its place in a hermetically-sealed case, where it has been kept since 1998.