Passio Christi, Passio hominis
Card. Severino Poletto
Archbishop of Turin
Turin Cathedral, 10 April 2010
the most highly awaited event has arrived. We are here gathered, surprised and misty-eyed. Our eyes can finally see the image of the Holy Shroud, which is displayed here in front of us; the silent image of a crucified man with all the marks of the violences suffered by the body of Jesus during His Passion, as they are described in the Gospels. The Crown of Thorns, the scourges, the woundes caused by the spikes through both His hands and feet, and the chest pierced with a lance of the soldier; these are all the elements of Jeus Christ Passion and readable in the imaged of this sacred linen. As Holiness Pope John Paul II addressed in 1998, «The Shroud is a challenge to our intelligence. […] The mysterious fascination of the Shroud forces questions to be raised about the sacred Linen and the historical life of Jesus».
The Word of God
We are celebrating the Eucharist and we can not avoid stopping and thinking of the message for the second Sunday of Easter from the Word of God and the Gospels.
John tells us that «On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord». In this Eucharist, Jesus appears among us and his presence is real, He is risen from the dead. His body carries the marks of his death and passion: Jesus presented the marks to his disciples so that they might believe he is the Son of God, died on the cross and won against the death and the sin. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord because they could finally ascertain that the news the women received at the Sepulchre by the Angels «do not look for the living among the dead? » (Cf Lc 24, 5) were undoubtedly true.
Also Thomas, who would not believe until he himself saw the marks on Jesus on his chest and hands, receives from Jesus a sign when He comes back to show him the truth. And Thomas – seeing him, believes and says to him «My Lord, and my God!»
The Holy Shroud “the mirror of the Gospel”
Is there a relationship between what the disciples experienced in this text of John and what we feel while standing in front of the Holy Shroud? What kind of feelings does the sacred linen set off in the moltitude of people coming to Turin to see and contemplate it with thoughyfulness? We are aware that our faith is not based on the Holy Shroud but rather on the Gospel and the announces that the Apostles gave us about the truth of our Lord’s resurrection, since they were with Him and did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. Since the Holy Shroud is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, whether it was the sheet that wrapped the body of our Redeemer after he had been taken down from the cross. For us it is enough to claim that so far no one has managed to explain how this image was created, which demonstrates that it is not a hand-manufactured and makes it more authentic.
Our faith in Jesus, who suffered under Ponzio Pilato, was crocified, died and was buried and rose from the dead according to the Gospels and He is our only Savior, does not need the Holy Shroud. But the Holy Shroud is a big help to the faith and the prayers of the believers because it is a reason for deep reflection about the Passion of Jesus Christ. In the incomparable suffering that it documents, the love of the One who loved us so much that died for us is made almost tangible and reveals its astonishing dimensions.
Passio Christi, Passio hominis
The words “Passio Christi, Passio hominis” which I chose as the motto for thi Holy Shroud Exhibition invites us to find the relationship between the passion of Jesus Christ and the suffering and the countless tragedies that have marked past history and continue to characterize the world and helps us discover how the Passion of Jesus is as a ray of light that shines on the sorrow and death of every person.
Staring at the Holy Shroud’s image helps us understanding the deep mistery of the suffering chose and accepted for love by Jesus Christ. The Holy Shroud reminds us that Jesus Christ took charge of the human suffering. I still recall the words of Pope John Paul II pronounced in 1998: «The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one’s fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age: of the countless tragedies that have marked past history and the dramas that continue to unfold in the world. Before the Shroud, how can we not think of the millions of people who die of hunger, of the horrors committed in the many wars that soak nations in blood, of the brutal exploitation of women and children, of the millions of human beings who live in hardship and humiliation on the edges of great cities, especially in developing countries? How can we not recall with dismay and pity those who do not enjoy basic civil rights, the victims of torture and terrorism, the slaves of criminal organizations? »
In front of this image of the Passion of Christ we also wonder: how we can not think of the many sufferings of poor families, unenployed people, the daily pain of sick persons and the hidden sufferings among tears and hopelessness? Only the light of Christ rose from the dead gives a meaning to our sufferings.
Saint John in his Gospel reminds us «By the Cross of his dying Son stood Mary, His Mother » (Gv 19, 25). Here in front of the Holy Shroud, which tells us the agony of Jesus Christ, we can think of Mother Mary, who is here to reminds the pilgrims that the Passion of Jesus his the only comfort to our suffering. With is resurrection God demonstrated us that the sufferrings and the death ends while the life and the glory He gives us are gifts that last forever; these gifts will become a reality of no end joy when «we will be always with God» (1 Ts 4, 17).
As we read in the first letter of Peter: «To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps; he committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Pt 2, 21-24). »