.- Saturday morning saw the first visitors enter the Cathedral of Turin, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to view the ancient relic at its first exposition in close to a decade. The Holy Father welcomed the exposition as "an extraordinary call back towards the mystery of the suffering of Christ."
The first public exposition of the Shroud since 2000 offers a "path of faith and prayer" for the more than 1.5 million pilgrims and visitors that will see it, according to the Cardinal Archbishop of Turin, Severino Poletto, who celebrated the opening Mass on Saturday afternoon along with the bishops of Italy's Piedmont region.
The Shroud of Turin was seen by thousands of people on the exposition's first day. Among those able to attend for veneration on the opening morning were local civil and religious authorities, journalists and the 4,000 volunteers who will provide assistance for the duration of the showing, from April 10 to May 23.
Following afternoon Mass, 12,000 pilgrims with reserved tickets were able to file through the Cathedral for a prayer and a glimpse at the burial cloth believed to bear the image of Jesus' crucified body.
Pope Benedict XVI said on Sunday that, "God willing," he will also be among the pilgrims to pay his respects during a visit he has planned for May 2.
He noted his happiness at the event after the Regina Caeli prayer at noon on Sunday, saying that it is "once again provoking a vast movement of pilgrims, but also studies, reflections and most of all an extraordinary call back towards the mystery of the suffering of Christ."
The Holy Father also expressed his wish that "this act of veneration may help all to seek the Face of God, that was the intimate aspiration of the Apostles, as well as ours."