The Shroud is a reminder to us of the darkness and light of Holy Saturday, Pope Benedict said from the altar before the "Icon" in the Cathedral of Turin. In the image stained with blood, he taught, we find "the darkest mystery of the faith and at the same time the brightest sign of a hope that doesn't have limits."
Visiting the Shroud on Sunday afternoon, the Holy Father gave a meditation on "Passio Christi – Passio hominis, Christ's passion - Man's passion." Before the Pope's visit, Cardinal Archbishop of Turin Severino Poletto had referred to this catechesis as the highlight of the 44-day exposition of the Shroud.
The Holy Father called his second time in front of the Shroud a "much awaited moment" and noted the "particular intensity" of the occasion. He said that perhaps he felt a greater intensity because with time he has become more sensitive to its message, but also because this time he was visiting as the Successor of Peter and he carries in his heart "all of the Church, or rather, all of humanity."
Speaking of the Shroud as the "Icon of Holy Saturday," Pope Benedict observed that it offers an image of Jesus' body during the time it was in the tomb, which was "brief chronologically - around a day and a half - but immense, infinite in its value and significance."
He explained that over the last century we have become "particularly sensitive" to the mystery of Holy Saturday as "the concealment of God is part of the spirituality of modern man, essentially, almost unconsciously, like an ever-expanding emptiness in the heart."
"Following the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our age has increasingly become an Easter Saturday. The darkness of that day is a call to everyone who questions themselves about life, particularly to us as believers," he said.
Noting that "We too are involved in this darkness,” Benedict XVI turned to the fact that Christ's death has a "totally positive" aspect as the source of consolation and hope. It is "the darkest mystery of the faith and at the same time the brightest sign of a hope that doesn't have limits," he said.
The Shroud "speaks to us" of the time Jesus spent in "no man's land," said the Pope, "between death and resurrection," when he descended into Hades, into solitude and abandonment "in order to lead us to cross it with Him."
As when the presence of a loved one reassures us when we feel abandoned, on Easter Saturday, "in the kingdom of death the voice of God resounded. The unthinkable happened ... Love penetrated Hades.
"Also in the extreme darkness of most absolute human solitude we can hear a voice that calls us to find a hand that takes us and guides us out."
The Holy Father also reflected on how men live because they are loved and can love, "if love has penetrated even into the place of death, then life has arrived there too. "In the hour of extreme solitude we will never be alone: 'Passio Christi - Passio hominis.'"
"This is the mystery of Holy Saturday!" the Pope exclaimed. "It was from there, from the darkness of the death of the Son of God, that the light of a new hope shone forth: the light of the Resurrection. And I feel that, looking at this sacred cloth with the eyes of faith, something of this light is perceived."
Many people visit the Shroud, the Pope observed, because they see in it "not so much the defeat of life and love, but rather the victory, victory of life over death, of love over hate. They do see the death of Jesus, but they catch a glimpse of his Resurrection; in the bosom of death now pulsates life, insofar as it is inhabited by love."
This, said Benedict XVI, is "the power of the Shroud - of the face of this 'Man of sorrows,' that carries on it the passion of the man of every time and place, also our passions, our sufferings, our difficulties, and our sins ..."
The linen, he said, "speaks with blood, the blood of life!"