May 17, 2010

TURIN, ITALY — The Shroud of Turin is an icon of “the most radical solidarity” – Christ sharing the loneliest moment of human existence by lying in a tomb, Pope Benedict said after he knelt in silent prayer before the linen cloth.

The shroud “is a burial cloth that wrapped the body of a man who was crucified in a way corresponding completely to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus,” the pope said May 2 during a day-long visit to Turin.

In his talks, the pope did not discuss the authenticity of the shroud as the cloth used to wrap the dead body of Jesus.

During his evening visit to the exposition of the shroud, the 83-year-old pope said that while he has seen it before, this time there was a special “intensity, perhaps because the passing of years has made me more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary icon.”

The Bible accounts say that Jesus was in the tomb from Friday night to dawn on Sunday — a time that was “chronologically brief, but immense, infinite in its value and meaning,” the pope said.

For a day and a half, Jesus’ body lay dead in the tomb and it appeared as if God had hidden himself from the world, the pope said.

Most modern men and women have had the experience of God seeming to hide from them and from the world, he said.

Even if they cannot explain their feeling in those terms, they experience “a void in their hearts that spreads.”

“After the two world wars, the concentration camps and gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our age became increasingly a Holy Saturday,” the day when Jesus’ body lay lifeless in the tomb, the pope said.

“We have all had the frightening sensation of having been abandoned, which is precisely the part of death that makes us so afraid; like children we are afraid to be alone in the dark and only the presence of a person who loves us can reassure us,” Pope Benedict said.

The shroud conveys that “the darkest mystery of faith is at the same time the brightest sign of a hope without limits” — it reminds people that Christ willingly embraced death to give all people the hope of eternal life, he said.

“The shroud is an icon written with blood: the blood of a man flagellated, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded on his right side,” exactly as the Gospels say Jesus was, the pope said.