Pope Benedict on Sunday prayed in front of one of Christianity's most important relics, the Holy Shroud, which is on display in Turin Cathedral. The linen is believed by Christians to be the burial cloth of Jesus. But others say it's a medieval fake. The pope also celebrated mass in the northern Italian city during his one-day visit there.
Pope Benedict XVI took a break Sunday from dealing with the clerical sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church to pray before the Shroud of Turin. The linen carries the unexplained image of a crucified man on it and Christians believe it is the burial cloth of Jesus.
The Vatican has never declared the shroud authentic but in a meditation inside Turin Cathedral, Pope Benedict declared that the cloth wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospel tells us of Jesus.
The pope said this extraordinary relic should be seen as a photographic document of the "darkest mystery of faith" - that of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
It is the first time the cloth has gone on public display since the Catholic Jubilee year of 2000 and a subsequent restoration in 2002. Two million people have made reservations to be able to see it.
In his meditation, the pope said the shroud is an icon written in blood, the blood of a flogged man, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded on the right side of his ribs. The image imprinted on the shroud, the pope added, is that of a dead man but the blood speaks of his life.
In the morning the pope also celebrated a large outdoor mass in Saint Charles Square in Turin. Tens of thousands of pilgrims turned out for the ceremony. Turin Archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto welcomed the pope with these words on the shroud.
He said the shroud calls us to contemplate the immense suffering of Jesus, which he faced in his Passion.
Pope Benedict said the image represents the passion of the man of every time and every place, with his sufferings, difficulties and sins. If thousands and thousands of people venerate the shroud, he said, it is because in it they see not only darkness but also light, not only the defeat of life and love, but also the victory of life over death.