Cardinal Severino Poletto, custodian of the Holy Shroud and Archbishop of Turin, was in Rome on Thursday morning to officially present plans and progress at a press conference for the Shroud's exposition this spring. He emphasized the "spiritual" benefits that will be provided to pilgrims through their contemplation of the image.
The famous Shroud, which is believed to be the burial shroud of Jesus, will be on display in the Cathedral of Turin from April 10 - May 20 of this year. Msgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the archdiocesan commission on the Shroud, said at the press conference that no research would be done on it during the days of the exposition.
Speaking about how the exposition will be the first in the new millenium and the first since its restoration in 2002, Cardinal Poletto said it must be remembered that the event should not be seen as "religious tourism," but instead, as "a spiritual and pastoral initiative."
"In the Shroud we are able to read all of the marks, all the particulars of the person of Jesus as they are described in the Gospel. It's clear that ... our Christian faith is not found in the Shroud," rather it is based on the "Gospel and the witness of the Apostles who announced Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world, crucified but, most of all, resurrected."
This exposition, he continued, is an "occasion to offer to the Christian faith, not the foundation ... but an aid to meditation, to prayer, to the contemplation of a extraordinary, tragic ... mysterious suffering that, as we believe, corresponds to the suffering of Christ."
Cardinal Poletto pointed out that regardless of the fact that there is no "certainty" about the origin of the linen, and even though no one has been able to reproduce it artificially, "our faith ... our prayer ... our meditation is aided by the contemplation of this image."
He repeated the words of Venerable John Paul II, who said that the Shroud is "the mirror of the Gospel"account, including its evidence of whipping, nails and blood.
"From a spiritual point of view it's important that we offer to the faithful the opportunity to see and to venerate this mysterious image," the cardinal added.
The Holy Father is one of over 1.3 million people, including 8,000 Americans, who will be in Turin to see the Shroud in the nearly two months of exposition. On May 2, among other events with the youth and local clergy, he will visit the Cathedral of Turin, where he will give what Cardinal Poletto called "a much awaited reflection" on the passion of Christ.
The cardinal expressed gratitude for the "great gift" that Pope Benedict XVI will be making to the archdiocese and the city by visiting in person.