Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Veronica's Veil"

Pope's visit lifts hope icon will be recognized

theage.com.au, Rome, August 22, 2006

Pope Benedict will make a pilgrimage to a remote monastery in the Abruzzo region east of Rome next week to visit a mysterious icon that many believe shows the face of Christ.

The icon is said by locals to be "Veronica's Veil", a piece of cloth that St Veronica used to mop Jesus' brow on his walk to the Cross and which later assumed his image.

The cloth, which measures 24 centimetres by 17 centimetres, is similar to the Shroud of Turin, but the eyes of its image are open.

Veronica's Veil is said to have been taken to Rome in 1297, but mystery surrounds its later movements. It is mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy. People in the highland town of Manoppello believe it was brought to them 500 years ago by a wandering pilgrim.

In recent months, the icon's popularity has soared, and it has become a destination for tourists from Rome. Its fame has persuaded the Vatican to edge closer to recognizing it as a holy relic.

"There has been a great wave of people (visiting) — not of pilgrims, but of people coming from other tourist sites," said Father Emilio Cucchiella, a priest at the town's monastery. "There has not been enough time to welcome them all. They arrive from six in the morning until eight at night."

The Vatican has stressed that the arrival of the Pope, who treads a conservative theological line, does not amount to an official endorsement, but his visit will be interpreted as a papal acknowledgement that the relic is genuine.

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