Here today with me I carry a twofold joy: to officially announce the exposition of the Shroud in Turin and the visit of the Holy Father Francis, who will be with us for two days, on June the 21st and the 22nd.
The Shroud, of which I am Custodian on behalf of the Apostolic See, is for the community of Turin, and for the whole universal Church, an important reference to the life of faith of so many people and communities, which in that image and that Face seek, find and recognize the signs of the Passion of the Lord, that Jesus who - in the permanent testimony of Church - inspires our life and challenges us to fully realize our deepest vocation. This is why I have chosen as the motto of the next exposition, "The Greatest Love" (Jn 15): the gift of salvation that becomes visible in our response, the worship of God and service to others. Well before and well above the historical and scientific issues the Shroud has become, since 1978, a pastoral reality. The pilgrimage to Turin has its own characteristics, which are not found in other types. It is not a journey to the Holy Places, nor the graves of the martyrs; is not a journey to the rediscovery of apparitions or miracles. It is a journey both shared and interior, a "pilgrimage within oneself," which has its culmination in the encounter with the image of the Man of Sorrows. An encounter that, as we have seen many times, causes emotion and calls to conversion and to service. The exposition, organized with the decisive contribution of institutions and economic and social bodies of Turin and Piedmont, first of all would like to propose this journey of faith, enriched by some specific suggestions that will be typical of the 2015 Exposition.
The saint of youth: Don Bosco
As noted by the Holy Father announcing his visit to Turin, He will be with us "to venerate the Shroud and to honor St. John Bosco," in the second centenary of his birth. The Pope's trip, as with the entire exposition, is also characterized as a thank you for the "saint of youth" and for the service that the Salesian Family continues to play in Turin and around the world in the fields of education, mission, sport, and communication. Pope Francis will be in Valdocco on June 21, but during all the 67 days of the exposition the "children of Don Bosco", from Turin and pilgrims, will be with us to experience the Shroud.
Youth is involved more than others in the Salesian mission: and therefore this is also why I wanted the exposition to be characterized by a strong invitation to young people – from Turin, Italy, and the rest of the world. In the days of the Pope's visit to Turin we will propose a "mini WYD," a series of meetings, discussions, prayers, moments of celebration to help us get in touch with young people to get to know each other, to listen, to have a dialogue. Here too, the Shroud will have a strong appeal: there will be night pilgrimages in the Cathedral, and the young people of Turin "will present" the living realities of the Church in our city to their Italian and foreign peers. An extraordinary sign will be the presence of the WYD Cross, which will stop in Turin on its journey to Krakow.
The other peculiarity of the next exposition is the attention to the world of suffering (the sick in body and spirit, the pastoral commitment of the carer). The latest expositions have always paid a strong attention to these pilgrimages because it is strong, for the Shroud, the reference to pain - but also to hope, and to concrete solidarity. This year the sick pilgrims and their carers will have new structures of hospitality, modeled on the "Home" of Lourdes, made specifically for the exposition, in collaboration with the SERMIG, Cottolengo and Asl Torino1. It is a concrete way to welcome people with greater difficulty, and a sign of "fraternity" that we want to emphasize.
The pilgrimage to the Shroud also wants to be an opportunity to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a concrete sign of forgiveness. As in previous exhibitions we have organized several points where ministers listen to devotees’ confessions, we can say in all languages of the world because, thanks to the collaboration with some Roman Colleges and with the priests of other nationalities serving in Turin and Piedmont will be able to overcome language barriers. I would just like to make an example: a pilgrimage of young Chinese college students in Italy has already been planned... In the premises of confession there is also room for Eucharistic adoration. We already know that there will be many pilgrimages from Europe and America: and we hope that the coincidence of the Milan Expo will bring to Turin, now "close" through high-speed trains, visitors which are expected during the coming weeks.
The 2015 exposition has been organized trying to maximize savings, in a period of severe economic and social crisis in the Turin area. The members of the organizing committee have made the necessary resources available, but from the beginning we wanted to involve as many stakeholders as possible, public and private, to make the exposition complete and help present an attractive image of our Turin. A great effort has also been made in communicating events, trying to be on the internet and in the world of social media. This is the time for me to thank all those who have already agreed to cooperate, and also the partners who still - we hope - will be added. For the entire " Torino system " the exposition of the Shroud is a source of pride but also a great opportunity to open up to new friends, visitors, tourists, pilgrims. The extensive cultural, musical, artistic program, is proof of the interest that the exposition gathers and the initiatives which it arouses in the city. In this regard I want to mention one of the major initiatives, the one promoted by the Italian Church through the Association of St. Anselm and with the support of the Council for Turin: in the Diocesan Museum, during the exposition, the "Lamentation over the Dead Christ" by Beato Angelico, usually in Florence, will be exhibited. In addition to the cultural value of the initiative, it is absolutely an ideal link between the exposition of the Shroud of Turin and the National Congress of the Italian Church which will be held precisely in Florence in November. The "new humanism" that is proposed in Jesus Christ as the presence, culture and testimony of the Church in Italy is not an occasional quote, but the continuity of a process that involves us deeply.
A gift for Francis
But I want to conclude by announcing an initiative that is being prepared and will be adequately publicized in the coming weeks. As you know, the exhibition of the Shroud is completely free. Traditionally many pilgrims at the end of the path leave an offer. Simple alms, deposited with great discretion outside the Duomo and on the premises of confession. On this occasion all the donations collected during the exposition will be delivered to Pope Francis when he will be with us in Turin on June 21. We will ask him to use it, of course, with maximum freedom, for a job or a project for the poor or needy. We would appreciate, of course, if such work could remember the Shroud, the Holy Face of the Lord and therefore Turin. But it is clear that we do not want in any way to affect the Pope's decision. We just which that this outcome of the exposition, the concrete solidarity of thousands of pilgrims, also becomes a "flower of love" in the hands of Francis.