The visit of Pope Benedict XVI in Manoppello on 1 September
Benedict XVI was welcomed in Manoppello by Bruno Forte, the
bishop of Chieti-Vasto diocese, who has been the Pope's associate in the
International Theological Committee for many years, and also by the town's
authorities as well as worshippers of the Holy Face.
Before entering the Shrine of Manoppello, the Holy Father
greeted the faithful gathered outside it:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, thank you
for this most cordial welcome. I see that the Church is a large family. Wherever
the Pope goes the family meets with great joy. For me
this is a sign of lively faith, of communion and of the peace that faith creates,
and I am deeply grateful to you for this welcome. Thus, I see on your faces the
full beauty of this Region of Italy here. A special
greeting to the sick: we know that the Lord is especially close to you, helps
you and accompanies you in your sufferings. You are in our prayers, and pray for
us, too! I offer a special greeting to the young people
and children making their First Communion. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for
your faith. As the Psalms say, we are all "seeking the
Face of the Lord". And this is also the meaning of my Visit. Let us seek
together to know the Face of the Lord ever better, and in the Face of the Lord
let us find this impetus of love and peace which also reveals to us the path of
Thank you, and my best wishes to you all!
Benedict XVI at the sanctuary's entrance
Having greeted the faithful gathered in the square in front
of the sanctuary, Benedict XVI went to the church where he met the clergy of the
diocese and prayed in silence before the Face of Christ.
Benedict XVI addressing the gathered guests and the
Holy Father's address made during the pilgrimage to
Manoppello on 1 September 2006
Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, Dear Brothers and
First of all, I must once again say a heartfelt "thank you"
for this welcome, for your words, Your Excellency, so profound, so friendly, for
the expression of your friendship and for the deeply meaningful gifts: the Face
of Christ venerated here, for me, for my house, and then the gifts of your land
that express the beauty and generosity of the earth, of the people who live and
work here, and the goodness of the Creator himself. I simply want to thank the
Lord for today's simple, family meeting in a place where we can meditate on the
mystery of divine love, contemplating the image of the Holy Face.
I extend my most heartfelt gratitude to all of you present here for your cordial
welcome and for the dedication and discretion with which you have supported my
private pilgrimage, which nevertheless, as an ecclesial pilgrimage, cannot be
I greet and thank in particular, I repeat, your Archbishop, a longstanding
friend. We worked together in the Theological Commission. And in many
conversations I always learned from his wisdom, and also from his books.
Thank you for your gifts which I very much appreciate as "signs", as Archbishop
Forte has called them.
Indeed, they are signs of the affective and effective communion which binds the
people of this beloved Abruzzi Region to the Successor of Peter.
I address a special greeting to you, priests, men and women religious and
seminarians gathered here. I am particularly glad to see a large number of
seminarians: the future of the Church in our midst. Since it is impossible to
meet the entire diocesan Community - perhaps that will be for another time - I
am glad that you are representing it, people already dedicated to the priestly
ministry and the consecrated life or who are on the way to the priesthood.
You are people whom I like to think of as in love with Christ, attracted by him
and determined to make your own life a continuous quest for his Holy Face.
Lastly, I address a grateful thought to the community of the Capuchin Fathers
who are offering us hospitality and who for centuries have cared for this Shrine,
the goal of so many pilgrims.
During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two Apostles
who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River,
as we read at the beginning of John's Gospel (cf. 1: 35-37).
The Evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: ""What do you
seek?'. And they answered him, "Rabbi... where are you staying?'". And he said
to them, "Come and see" (cf. Jn 1: 38-39).
That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable
experience which prompted them to say: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1: 41).
The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple "rabbi" had
acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited
But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples!
They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could
be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his "Face" would prove, so that even after
living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him
say at the Last Supper: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know
me, Philip?". And then the words that sum up the novelty of Jesus' revelation:
"He who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14: 9).
Only after his Passion when they encountered him Risen, when the Spirit
enlightened their minds and their hearts, would the Apostles understand the
significance of the words Jesus had spoken and recognize him as the Son of God,
the Messiah promised for the world's redemption. They were then to become his
unflagging messengers, courageous witnesses even to martyrdom.
"He who has seen me has seen the Father". Yes, dear brothers and sisters, to "see
God" it is necessary to know Christ and to let oneself be moulded by his Spirit
who guides believers "into all the truth" (cf. Jn 16: 13). Those who meet Jesus,
who let themselves be attracted by him and are prepared to follow him even to
the point of sacrificing their lives, personally experience, as he did on the
Cross, that only the "grain of wheat" that falls into the earth and dies, bears
"much fruit" (Jn 12: 24).
This is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death: he who
takes it and "hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (Jn
12: 25). In other words, he lives in God already on this earth, attracted and
transformed by the dazzling brightness of his Face.
This is the experience of God's true friends, the saints who, in the brethren,
especially the poorest and neediest, recognized and loved the Face of that God,
lovingly contemplated for hours in prayer. For us they are encouraging examples
to imitate; they assure us that if we follow this path, the way of love, with
fidelity, we too, as the Psalmist sings, will be satisfied with God's presence (cf.
Ps 17: 15).
"Jesu... quam bonus te quaerentibus! - How kind you are, Jesus, to those who
seek you!". This is what we have just sung in the ancient hymn "Jesu, dulcis
memoria" [Jesus, the very thought of you], which some people attribute to St
It is a hymn that acquires rare eloquence in the Shrine dedicated to the Holy
Face, which calls to mind Psalm 24: "Such is the generation of those who
seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob" (v. 6).
But which is "the generation" of those who seek the Face of God, which
generation deserves to "ascend the hill of the Lord" and "stand in his holy
The Psalmist explains: it consists of those who have "clean hands and a pure
heart", who do not speak falsehoods, who do not "swear deceitfully" to their
neighbour (cf. vv. 3-4). Therefore, in order to enter into communion with Christ
and to contemplate his Face, to recognize the Lord's Face in the faces of the
brethren and in daily events, we require "clean hands and a pure heart".
Clean hands, that is, a life illumined by the truth of love that overcomes
indifference, doubt, falsehood and selfishness; and pure hearts are essential
too, hearts enraptured by divine beauty, as the Little Teresa of Lisieux says in
her prayer to the Holy Face, hearts stamped with the hallmark of the Face of
Dear priests, if the holiness of the Face of Christ remains impressed within you,
pastors of Christ's flock, do not fear: the faithful entrusted to your care will
also be infected with it and transformed.
And you, seminarians, who are training to be responsible guides of the Christian
people, do not allow yourselves to be attracted by anything other than Jesus and
the desire to serve his Church. I would like to say as much to you, men and
women religious, so that your activities may be a visible reflection of divine
goodness and mercy.
"Your Face, O Lord, I seek": seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of
all of us Christians; indeed, we are "the generation" which seeks his Face in
our day, the Face of the "God of Jacob". If we persevere in our quest for the
Face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, he, Jesus, will be our
eternal joy, our reward and glory for ever: "Sis Jesu nostrum gaudium, qui es
futurus praemium: sit nostra in te gloria, per cuncta semper saecula".
This is the certainty that motivated the saints of your Region, among whom I
would like to mention in particular Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and Camillus
de Lellis; our reverent remembrance and our prayer is addressed to them.
But let us now address a thought of special devotion to the "Queen of all the
saints", the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate in the various shrines and chapels
scattered across the valleys and mountains of the Abruzzi Region. May Our Lady,
in whose face - more than in any other creature - we can recognize the features
of the Incarnate Word, watch over the families and parishes and over the cities
and nations of the whole world.
May the Mother of the Creator also help us to respect nature, a great gift of
God that we can admire here, looking at the marvellous mountains surrounding us.
This gift, however, is exposed more and more to the serious risks of
environmental deterioration and must therefore be defended and protected. This
is urgently necessary, as Archbishop Forte noted and as is appropriately
highlighted by the Day of Reflection and Prayer for the Safeguarding of Creation,
which is being celebrated by the Church in Italy this very day.
Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you once again for your presence and for
your gifts, I invoke the Blessing of God upon you and upon all your loved ones
with the ancient biblical formula: "May the Lord bless you and keep you: may the
Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: may the Lord lift
up his countenance upon you and give you peace" (cf. Nm 6: 24-26). Amen!
(C) Copyright 2006 - Libreria
The Pope also met Paul Badde, Sister Blandina Paschalis
Schlömer and Father Carmine Cucinelli.
The meeting with Paul Badde
The meeting with Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer
The meeting with Father Carmine Cucinelli
During an audience in the Vatican on 3 November 2010 the
Pope received the symbolic keys to the town of Manoppello from the Mayor, the
President of the Town Council and Archbishop Bruno Forte, the ordinary of the
The prayer which Pope Benedict had written himself personally
and sent in commemoration of his visit to Manoppello to the Cappucins of the
Basilica and to Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Scalo exactly a year later on
September 1st 2007.
As the first apostles,
Whom you asked: 'What do you seek?',
Accepted your invitation to: 'Come and See'
Recognising you as the Son of God,
The Promised Messiah for the world’s redemption,
We too, your disciples in this difficult time
Want to follow you and be your friends,
Drawn by the brilliance of your face much desired yet hidden.
Show us, we pray you, your face ever new,
That mirror, mystery laden, of God’s infinite mercy.
Grant that we may contemplate it
With the eyes of our mind and our hearts:
The Son’s face, radiance of the Father’s glory
And the imprint of his Nature (cf. Hb 1,3),
The human face of God that has burst into history
To reveal the horizons of eternity.
The silent face of Jesus suffering and risen,
When loved and accepted changes the heart and life.
'Your face, Lord, do I seek,
Do not hide your face from me' (Ps.27,8ff).
How many times through the centuries and millenia has not resounded
The ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful!
Lord, with faith, we too repeat the same invocation:
'Man of suffering, as one from whom others hide their faces' (Is.53,3),
Do not hide your face from us!
We want to draw from your eyes,
That look on us with tenderness and compassion.
The force of love and peace which shows us the way of life,
And the courage to follow you without fear or compromise,
So as to be witnesses of your Gospel,
With concrete signs of acceptance, love and forgiveness.
O Holy Face of Christ,
Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness,
Life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death,
O inscrutable gaze
That never ceases to watch over men and people,
Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs
And in the faces of those that live with us,
Make us God’s pilgrims in this world,
Longing for the Infinite and ready for the final encounter,
When we shall see you, Lord, 'face to face' (1Cor.13,12),
And be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory.
Mary, Mother of the Holy Face,
Help us have 'hands innocent and a heart pure',
Hands illumined by the truth of love
And hearts enraptured by divine beauty,
That transformed by the encounter with Christ,
We may gift ourselves to the poor and the suffering,
Whose faces reflect the hidden presence
Of your Son Jesus,
Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!
Benedict XVI., pp,
Rome, September 1st 2007, written and sent to the Guardian of
the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello (Italy) in memory of his pilgrimage
to the Sanctuary a year before, on September 1st, 2006
Thanks to courtesy of website: