The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI – The Holy Face

Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

Below is a translation (from German and Italian) of a remembrance of Pope Benedict XVI, written by his friend, Paul Badde, which was read on the recent occasion of the Solemn celebration of “Omnis Terra,” January 15, 2023, at the Basilica Sanctuary Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppelo, Italy:

Benedict’s Legacy

by Paul Badde

On December 31st, an honorary German citizen of Manoppello died with these Italian words on his lips, “Signore ti Amo” (“Lord, I love you”): Pope Benedict XVI

Video of Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Sanctuary Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, September 1, 2006.

His visit by helicopter [to Manoppello] will be here forever remembered. Countless cameras captured how he [Benedict] could not tear himself away from the sight of the Holy Face, in which the half-blind seer had just discovered “the Face of God,” and which he never tired of praising during his pontificate. Since then, he no longer waited for the end after his death, but for “an encounter;” a term which became, more or less, the center of his theology.

Pope Benedict XVI with Paul Badde on the occasion of the Pope’s pilgrimage to see The Holy Veil in 2006.

Benedict was the first pope after more than four hundred years to bend the knee before this “true image” [“Veronica”] of Christ. And even more, by his visit, Pope Benedict catapulted the Holy Image, out its hiddenness in the silence of its isolation of Abruzzo, and into the consciousness of the whole earth (“Omnis Terra”). But into a [technologically] changed world where new possibilities of digital comparisons [of images of the Holy Face] could, as never before, be identified in a definitive and concise way as the “Crown Relic of the Resurrection.” This return of the Holy Face to Christianity will forever be the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

He [Benedict] immediately told Archbishop Bruno Forte, in German, that he was “begeistert” (enthusiastic). However, after this encounter with the Creator, the Pope requested that the pilot fly him, not by the shortest route back to Castel Gandolfo, but to make a detour over the Gran Sasso glaciers, to encounter the beauty of creation above the highest peak of the Apennines for a small echo of his happiness in Manoppello.

Fresco of ciborium, built by Pope John VII, that existed in 708 containing sudarium of the “Veronic” True Icon.

Since that day, the name of Benedict XVI has been forever associated with the “Most Holy Sudarium” of which the eyewitness John first reported in his Gospel. In this respect, Benedict’s memory is like that of Pope John VII, who in 705, when he arrived in Rome from Constantinople, during the period of Iconoclasm in the East, built the first ciborium for this Holy Sudarium [Relic of the burial cloth of the Face of Christ] in the ancient St. Peter’s Basilica, or like that of Pope Innocent III who made public, in the Latin Church, the same sacred veil [of the Holy Face] for the first time on January 16, 1208, when personally and barefoot, he carried the Holy Face in procession to Rome, from St. Peter’s to the sick of Holy Spirit Hospital in Sassia. It was the first celebration of “Omnis Terra.”

Omnis Terra Procession of Pope Innocent III in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Seven years ago, on January 16, 2016, Padre Carmine Cucinelli [then the Rector of the Shrine] brought this festive event to our memory, and to the tradition of Manoppello, repeating the theme of procession, with the citizens of Manoppello along the same route in which we [the faithful celebrating “Omnis Terra] meet today. But this time — also for the first time — in grateful memory of Pope Benedict XVI, the “little prince” of the Catholic Church of our time.

Young Joseph Ratzinger

The last photo that exists of him shows him on December 10, 2022 with my friend, Michael Hesemann in his [Pope Benedict’s] study. [One can see] in the monastery “Mater Ecclesiae,” richly decorated with paintings, Benedict’s telephone table: To the right of an icon of St. Benedict of Nursia, he [Pope Benedict XVI] could gaze, until his last breath, at a transparent copy of the “true image” of the Holy Face — that he alone brought back to the world.

December 10, 2022, Last photo of Pope Benedict XVI, in his study with Michael Hessemann — note the telephone table to the right, with the transparent copy of the Holy Face of Manoppello. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
On the left: Pope Benedict’s transparent image of the Holy Face of Manoppello. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
“Signore ti Amo” – Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

My heartfelt thanks to Paul Badde for so generously sharing his photos and remembrance of Pope Benedict XVI!

Transparent Veil of the Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN
A Miracle of Light: The Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
Archbishop Bruno Forte carries the precious relic of the Holy Face of Manoppello. (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)

 The Holy Face, Light that Illuminates the World

Homily at the Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Sunday, January 15, 2023

of

+ Bruno Forte

Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto

 It was Pope Innocent III in the year 1208 who desired that the veil of the Holy Face should be carried in procession from St. Peter’s Basilica to the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. It was the second Sunday after Epiphany, called Omnis Terra Sunday from the words of the Entrance Psalm Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi! – Let the whole earth adore You, O God, and sing You hymns (Ps 65:4). At the end of that procession the Bishop of Rome wished to bless with the precious relic the sick of the Pilgrims’ Hospital, which he himself had rebuilt and upgraded. With that gesture the Pope intended to highlight the healing grace flowing from the Face of the Savior contemplated with faith and the fruitfulness of the prayer of adoration and intercession before that Face, which we contemplate in the veil of byssus venerated here in Manoppello.

Another Pope, Benedict XVI, who went to meet the Lord last December 31, wished to visit this place on September 1,  2006 to venerate the Holy Face, receiving such a profound impression that he wrote the beautiful prayer we know and also wanted permanently beside him the copy of that beloved Face. Reliable sources assure us that it is to that image that the dying Pope directed His last gaze, pronouncing the words, the true synthesis of His entire life given to Christ, to the Church and to the world: “Lord, I love you!”. The word of God proclaimed this Sunday helps us to understand Pope Benedict’s love for the Holy Face and the reasons that make the pilgrimage to this place a particular source of grace and peace: here from the Face of the risen Jesus marked by pain, but serene and radiant, the light of the Redeemer of man shines for us; Here everyone can welcome that light into his heart for his own life; from here we start with the intense desire to witness to everyone the light of that Face, to lead many to the encounter with the Savior, who profoundly changes our lives and makes us pilgrims in love towards the heavenly homeland, where the Holy Father Benedict has now entered and intercedes for us.

The text taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah (49,3,5-6) reports the promise made by the Lord to manifest His glory on His servant, Israel, whom He chose and shaped from his mother’s womb to restore the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the survivors of Israel and whom he made “light to the nations” to bring salvation from on high to the ends of the earth. In a homily given on September 24, 2011, to young people,  gathered for a prayer vigil in the Fairgrounds at Freiburg im Breisgau, Pope Benedict affirmed: “Christ, who says of himself: ‘I am the light of the world’ (Jn 8:12), makes our lives shine, so that what is said in his Gospel may be true: ‘You are the light of the world’ (Mt 5:14). It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our time that bring light to this world. The suffering of the innocent and, finally, the death of every man constitute an impenetrable darkness that can be illuminated for a moment by new experiences, as by lightning in the night. In the end, however, a distressing darkness remains… However, we see a light: a small, tiny flame that is stronger than darkness, seemingly so powerful and unbeatable. Christ, who rose from the dead, shines in this world, and he does so most clearly precisely where according to human judgment everything seems gloomy and hopeless. He has conquered death – He lives – and faith in Him penetrates like a small light all that is dark and threatening. Those who believe in Jesus certainly do not always see only the sun in life…, but there is always a bright light that shows them a way, the way that leads to life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The eyes of those who believe in Christ see even in the darkest night a light and already see the glow of a new day”. Yes: we believed in the light, which is the Risen Lord, and this light gives meaning to our life and to history and fills the restless hearts of us pilgrims to the heavenly city with peace and hope.

It is not we, therefore, who give ourselves light: it is Christ who gives us the light, he who – as the Apostle Paul affirms in today’s second reading, taken from  the First Letter to the Corinthians (1:1-3) – has sanctified us in himself, making us saints by vocation together with all those who everywhere call on his name. The light that liberates and saves is grace, a free and undeserved gift, offered to us  in abundance by the One who died and rose for us. Pope Benedict also recalls this in the homily cited:  “If we believe that he is the Son of God who healed the sick and raised the dead, indeed, that he himself rose from the tomb and truly lives, then we understand that he is the light, the source of all the lights of this world. We experience again and again the failure of our efforts and personal error despite our good intentions. There are still wars, terror, hunger and disease, extreme poverty and merciless repression. And even those who in history have considered themselves “bearers of light”, without however having been enlightened by Christ, the only true light, have not created any earthly paradise, but have established dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of humanism has been stifled. Only Christ can say “I am the light of the world”… Only by starting from Him can we become an ever new light.  Of course, instead of putting a light on the lampstand, you can cover it with a bushel. Let us ask ourselves then: how often do we cover God’s light with our inertia, with our obstinacy, so that it cannot shine, through us, in the world?”  May the Lord who looks at us from the Face contemplated in this place flood us more and more with His light, freeing us from evil, making us  radiant with His light with His grace, for the salvation of every creature.

            Finally, in the passage from the Gospel according to John (1:29-34), we are entrusted with the task of bringing to the world the light that  has reached us in Jesus. John the Baptist bears witness to this, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sin of the world!” He then traces for all of us a task, the same one that He fulfilled with His whole life: “I have beheld the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and remaining upon him. I did not know him, but the very one who sent me to baptize in water said to me: “He upon whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain, it is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit”. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” This is our mission: to bear witness to Christ, Lord and Savior. It is once again Pope Benedict who reminds us of this on the occasion cited: “Christ is not so much interested in how many times in life we falter and fall, but in how many times we, with his help, get up again. He does not demand extraordinary actions but wants his light to shine in you. He does not call us because we are good and perfect, but because He is good and wants to make us His friends. Yes, we are the light of the world because Jesus is our light. We are Christians not because we accomplish extraordinary things, but because He, Christ, is our life. We are holy, if we allow His grace to work in us.” 

Let us ask, then, the Lord, who looks at us from His Holy Face, to fill us with His light and to be witnesses to His light  in every situation of our lives, for the benefit of every creature He will give us to meet. We do so with words taken from  the beautiful prayer that Pope Benedict sent us a year after his visit here in Manoppello: “O Lord Jesus, like the first apostles, … We too, your disciples of this difficult time,  want to follow you and be your friends, attracted by the radiance of your desired and hidden face. Show us, we beg you, your ever new face, a mysterious mirror of God’s infinite mercy. Let us contemplate him in the eyes of our mind and heart: the face of the Son, the radiance of the Father’s glory and the imprint of his substance (Cf. Heb 1:3), the human face of God who entered history to reveal the horizons of eternity. light that illuminates the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the power of evil and death…  Make us pilgrims of God in this world, thirsting for the infinite and ready for the meeting of the last day… Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us to have “clean hands and a pure heart”, hands enlightened by the truth of love and hearts enraptured by divine beauty, so that, transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may give ourselves to the poor and suffering, in whose faces shines the mysterious presence of your Son Jesus, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen!”

Thank you to Raymond Frost for the clear translation of Archbishop Bruno Forte’s Homily!

Omnis Terra 2023

“Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi!”

“The whole earth adores you, O God, and sing hymns to you” (Ps 65:4)

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
“Omnis Terra” procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Livestream from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/basilicavoltosanto. Basilica Volto Santo di Manoppello.

The Rector of the Basilica Shrine of the Holy Face, in Manoppello, Italy, P. Antonio Gentili, has announced that the “Omnis Terra” Mass celebration on Sunday, January 15th will be live-streamed from the Basilica beginning at 11:00am local time (Rome time) Archbishop Bruno Forte will be presiding. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be remembered in prayer during the Mass. A blessing will be imparted with the reliquary of the Holy Face during the celebration.

+++

Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Omnis Terra, Latin for “All the Earth, ” is the name given to the Second Sunday in Ordinary time. The revelation of Jesus’s glory is the cause for all the earth rejoicing, giving praise to His Name! This year Omnis Terra falls on January 15th, and will be celebrated with a solemn Mass and procession at the Sanctuary Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

Since ancient times processions have been a reminder that our Christian life is a constant movement toward God and our eternal home.  A procession is a type of pilgrimage and expression of piety that flows from the liturgy.  Solemn processions can be quite beautiful–accompanied by hymns, prayers, and lit candles– flower girls dropping roses petals, lines of freshly scrubbed altar servers, Archbishops and Priests accompanying the Eucharist or precious relics, acolytes surrounded by clouds of incense, and the faithful, like lambs following the Good Shepherd, holding their rosaries trying to keep their place as they walk slowly behind. But make no mistake, a procession is not a pretty parade. There is power in procession that terrifies the infernal foe and makes all of hell tremble.

“Vera Icon” Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
The “Living Face” becomes visible on the Holy Veil of Manoppello. Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

The eyes following the onlooker — Holy Veil of Manoppello (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN)
Il Volto Santo – The Face of Love and Mercy (Photo: Paul Badde/EWTN

Fr. Frederick W. Faber in his treatise on the Blessed Sacrament wrote:

“We process toward our heavenly home in the company of God.  Procession is the function of faith, which burns in our hearts and beams in our faces, and makes our voices tremulous with emotion as our ‘Lauda Sion’ bids defiance to an unbelieving world.”

detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia"
Detail of Face of Jesus on the Holy Veil from the precious manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia”

The world is not only unbelieving but publicly blasphemes God to His Face, and it is for this reason that He must be honored publicly.  Whether it is within the confines of a church or through the city streets, the procession is a public function of faith, hope, and love. It is an antidote to the poison disseminated by our culture which falsely asserts that religion is “private” and not something to be brought up in polite society or in the public square.  By solemn procession the Church loudly proclaims to all the world that Jesus is Lord!

Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016
Archbishop Ganswain holding the replica of the Holy Veil of Manoppello at Spirito Santo in Rome. 2016

History was made on “Omnis Terra”(All the earth) Sunday in January of 2016, when bishops, priests, and pilgrims re-enacted the historic “Omnis Terra” Procession of Pope Innocent III (pictured above), carrying a reproduction of the precious image that many scholars identify with “the Veronica” or “true image” of the Face of Jesus. The pilgrim procession began at St. Peter’s in Rome and processed to  Spirito Santo church and hospital, drawing attention especially to the Face of Christ in the sick and the poor.

On the occasion of the first “Omnis Terra” procession in 1208, Pope Innocent III wrote this beautiful prayer of devotion to the Veil of Holy Face of Jesus:

“O God, who has marked us with the light of Thy Face as your memorial, and at the request of Veronica, left us Thy Image imprinted on the sudarium; grant we pray, that by your passion and death, to adore, venerate and honor you, in mystery and as through a mirror on earth, so that we might be able to certainly see you, face to face, when you come as our judge.”

On “Omnis Terra” Sunday, January 15, 2017, history was made once again at the Basilica Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy, when a third solemn annual procession was introduced–in addition to the two solemn processions already observed in May (commemorating the arrival of the Holy Veil to Manoppello), and the solemn procession in August (on the Feast of the Transfiguration). 

The addition of a third procession of the Holy Face at the Shrine of Manoppello is not only Trinitarian, it is a deeply significant and public witness of honor paid by the faithful to His Holy Face and thus also to the Holy Name of Jesus!  May all of hell tremble at the sight of His Holy Face!

A Hymn composed by Pope Innocent III from the year 1216:

“Sancte Salve Facies”

Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying "the Veronica" *Face of Christ (from "Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia" manuscript 1350)
Procession of Pope Innocent II in 1208 carrying “the Veronica” *Face of Christ (from “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia” manuscript 1350)

Hail Holy Face of Our Redeemer on which shines the appearance of divine splendor impressed upon a little cloth of snowy radiance and given to Veronica as a standard of love.

Hail beauty of the ages, mirror of the saints, which the spirits of the heavens desire to see.  Cleanse us from every stain of sin and guide us to the fellowship of the blessed.

Hail our glory amidst this hard life, so fragile and unstable, quickly passing away.  Point us, O happy figure, to the heavenly homeland to see the Face that is Christ indeed.

Hail, O sudarium, noble encased jewel, both our solace and the memorial of Him who assumed a little mortal body–our true joy and ultimate good!

*The precious miniature manuscript “Liber Regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia,” was published around 1350 and is preserved in the State Archives in Rome.  The illustration at the bottom of the first page of the Liber is one of the oldest illustrations of “the Veronica,” which depicts Pope Innocent III with “the Veronica” in his right hand and the Rule granted to the brothers of the hospital in his left.  Prior to the Jubilee of 2000, the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff wrote, “Over the centuries Rome was enriched with notable relics. One in particular acquired an exceptional prestige:  the sudarium of Christ known and revered by the name of “the Veronica.”  The circumstances by which the image first came to Rome is a mystery but was mentioned for the first time under Pope John VII (705-707)

More information will be posted when it becomes available as to live-streaming of the Mass, Procession and blessing of “All the World” with the Holy Face from the Basilica Shrine in Manoppello.

The Beauty and Meaning of Pope Emeritus Face Cloth

A cloth is placed over the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and Monsignor Diego Giovanni Ravelli.

“Almighty God, Lord of life and death, we believe that the life of the Holy Father Benedict XVI is now hidden in you… May his face contemplate your beauty.”

Prayer for the rite

Many may have noticed and wondered at the significance of placing a “veil” or cloth over the face of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The significance of the action have a deep beauty and meaning, especially for a priest.

At the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II, Archbishop Dziwisz covered the pope’s face with a veil.

An explanation about the tradition of a face cloth for burial may be helpful in understanding its profound significance:  In the funeral rites for priests in some Eastern churches, the veil which was used to cover the chalice and paten were placed on the face of the deceased priest. (The cloth used to cover the chalice and paten had a particular liturgical symbolism linked to the Face of Christ as well.) It was done as a symbol of both the strength and protection of God, and also of the tomb of Christ–an expression of belief in the Resurrection. In Jewish burial custom, a deceased priest’s face would be anointed with oil and then covered with a white cloth, and would have been done for Jesus.

When Pope St. John Paul II was being laid in his coffin, Archbishops Marini and Stanley Dziwisz had the honor of placing a white silk veil over the face of the pope. Poignantly, the choir sang the words from Psalm 42, “My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when will I come and see the Face of the Lord?” Many wondered about the action of covering the pope’s face with a veil because this was the first time it had been done, but was at the request of Pope John Paul II, who had dedicated the millennium to the Face of Christ. In Novo Millenio Ineunte, St. Pope John Paul II emphasized the importance of contemplation of the Face of Christ by stating:

“To contemplate The Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before The Church at the dawn of the third millennium…To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize Him wherever He manifests Himself, in His many forms of presence, but above all, in the living Sacrament of His Body and Blood.” And, “It is the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make His Face shine also before the generations of the new millennium. Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” (More may read in “The Cloth That Covered His Head.”)

Pope Benedict XVI contemplates the Veil of the Holy Face in Manoppello, September 2006, Photo:Paul Badde/EWTN

Deep in his heart, man has an inexpressible longing to see the face of God. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote beautifully in his homilies and in his book, On the Way to Jesus Christ, “The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the Face of God is inherent in every human being, even atheists.” This yearning for God has been expressed from antiquity in the Old Testament:

Listen to my voice, Lord, when I call
. . . Your Face, Lord, do I seek!
Hide not Your Face from me!
-Psalm 27

The Face of God was a recurring motif in Benedict’s homilies. On January 1, 2013, Benedict spoke on the blessing of the priests of the people of Israel. The blessing repeats the three times Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time linked to two words indicating an action in favor of man: “May The Lord bless and keep you, may He make His Face shine upon you and be gracious to you: May the Lord turn His Face toward you and give you His PEACE.” Peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favor, His most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”

“The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s Mercy.”–Pope Benedict XVI (photo:Paul Badde/EWTN, Alotting, Germany, Set. 13, 2006)

These words of Benedict echo the words of St. Pope John Paul II, that “in The Eucharist, the Face of Christ is turned toward us.”

Moreover, Pope Benedict wrote, “To rejoice in the splendor of His Face means penetrating the mystery of His Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of His interior life and of His will, so that we can live according to His plan for humanity. Jesus lets us know the hidden Face of The Father through His human Face; by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, the Pope says, is the foundation of our Peace, which nothing can take from us.

Benedict XVI has characterized devotion to The Holy Face as having three separate components:
1. Discipleship – an encounter with Jesus, to see Jesus in the Face of those in need.
2. The Passion of Jesus, and suffering expressed by images of the wounded Face of Jesus.
3. The Eucharist, “the great school in which we learn to see The Face of God”, which is woven between the other two. The eschatological element then builds on awakening to Christ by contemplating His Face hidden in The Eucharist.

“Our whole life should be directed toward encountering Him,” writes Benedict, “toward loving Him; and in it, a central place must be given to love of one’s neighbor, that love that in the light of The Crucified One, enables us to recognize the Face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering.” The pope goes on to explain the fruits of this contemplation: “From contemplation of the Face of God are born, joy, security, PEACE”

“Seeking the face of God”, says Pope Benedict XVI, “is an attitude that embraces all of life; in order for a man to see God’s face at last, he must himself be illuminated entirely by God.” “Let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Ps 80:3,7,19)

Pope Emeritus Benedict kept a photo of the Holy Face of Manoppello near him and gazed on it in his last hours. His last recorded words were, “Signore Ti Amo” = “Lord, I love you.

”While we too seek other signs, other wonders, we do not realize that He is the real sign, God made flesh; He is the greatest miracle of the universe:  all the love of God hidden in a human heart, in a human face.” 

~ Pope Benedict XVI