Sunday, 17 January 2010

Pope Benedict and the Holy Face at Manoppello -Part 3

Answers to some questions (based on the ITV interview):

Has the visit of Pope Benedict affected the number of pilgrims visiting the Sanctuary of the Holy Face?
Most definitely, yes. On the date of his visit, Yahoo news gave the annual number of pilgrims at around 250,ooo. In the ITV interview Fr Carmine Cucinelli the Sanctuary's Rector, said that in the year preceding the interview (2008-9) 600,000 souls had made the pilgrimage.

Where do the pilgrims come from?
Before the Pope's visit the Holy Face at Manoppello was little known, even in Italy. Many Italians were surprised to hear of its existence. Now, it is world famous and people come from 'America and other countries like the Philippines'. The most impressive national cohort is definitely the Polish one. Never a day goes by without the arrival of at least one coach-load of Polish pilgrims and on many days there are three or four Polish coaches. Fr Cucinelli remebers one day when there were seven.

What further developments have there been which indicate increased interest in the Holy Face? People have begun to write in asking for images and picture postcards. For this reason information on the Sanctuary and its religious meaning has been translated into 10 languages and a four language website has been set up. Here's the link again:

Are there any books on the subject?
Yes there are three, by Paul Badde, Sister Blandina and Fr Pfeiffer respectively but according to Fr Cucinelli they are only published in Germany. Come on Ignatius Press! Please do something about this!

Has any research been conducted recently?
1. Researchers from L'Aquila University carried out surveys with an infrared ray camera. At the time of the interview results were awaited. (No mention is made of the earthquake which perhaps may have destroyed these results.)
2. The director of the Audiovisual Technique and Image Semiotics at Gdansk University in Poland has taken pictures that prove the veil is not a painting. A Raman laser survey has been carried out. this makes use of a graph to identify the components of the material analysed. This has been twice applied to the veil bearing the Holy Face and each time the result has been the same: only the protein of watered silk is present on the points analysed.

Does this fully confirm that the Veil is not a painting?
Here is Father Cucinelli's answer in full: "Definitely: it's not a painting since there's no trace of minerals or other substances. The exam detected only one protein which is in all likelihood that of watered silk. Another survey has been carried out too: a specialist from the National Council of Research took three-dimensional photographs to detect the thickness and the numbers of layers of the Veil. We are waiting for the results, which will certainly be of great interest."

Has the case holding the veil ever been opene?
No, in order to avoid the risk of damaging the veil.

Have their been other decelopments as a result of Pope Benedict's visit?
Yes. When he went there, our Holy Father raised the Sanctuary to the status of basilica. This means that a Plenary Indulgence can be gained by visiting the Sanctuary on any of the following days (there are others, please make enquiries at the Sanctuary website, or by writing a letter.)
1. Festivals related to the Holy Face -third Sunday of May and August 6th .
2. Festivals related to the Holy Father - Feb 22 St. Peter's Chair; June 29 SS Peter & Paul; April April 19 Anniversary of Pope Benedict's election; September 22 Anniversary of the raising of the Sanctuary to basilica status.

How has this affected the life and work of the Franciscan community who are keepers of the Sanctuary?
Fr Cucinelli's reply: "Two friars stay in the church all day long to receive the pilgrims (our community is now made up of six priests). The arrival of so many pilgrims has considerably increased the work of our confessors. Our only problem is languages, as our community is made up of Italian friars who speak some English and Spanish, but we need speakers of other languages like Polish."

A prayer for help from Polish speaking priests is implicit in Father's last sentence, and indeed a prayer for vocations to his community. I'm sure that Spiritual Mothers and their friends will want to bear this in mind.

Next post will be about Sister Blandina's life and contribution to the life of the Sanctuary. It will also report some of her recent thoughts and convictions about the Holy Face image itself.

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