The little-known story of the Holy Face of Manoppello – “the greatest miracle we have” St. Padre Pio

November 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – There are still many Catholics who do not know “the greatest miracle we have,” in the words of St. Padre Pio. He was referring to the Holy Face of Manoppello, the Volto Santo, which is wondrously to be found on a  mysterious veil of sea-silk on which one can not paint. It is mostly due to a few persons who have worked tirelessly in the last decades to uncover and clarify this miracle, which is to be found in a little village church in the Abruzzi mountains of Italy two hours away from Rome, in Manoppello. One of the great promoters of this miraculous picture is Paul Badde, a German journalist and learned book author who lives himself in Rome and now works for EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).

Paul Badde just published this past September a new little 90-page booklet in German and in Italian in which he updates his earlier books about the Volto Santo. His earlier books were entitled The Face of God: The Rediscovery Of The True Face of Jesus and The True Icon (both published at Ignatius Press).

Picture of the Godesclalc Evangelistary (Charlemagne’s Court School), 781.Courtesy of Paul Badde

In his new 2017 booklet, which is entitled From Face to Face: The Face of God in Manoppello (Von Angesicht zu Angesicht. Das Antlitz Gottes in Manoppello, published in German by Christiana-Verlag, and at the same time in Italian as Il tesoro di Manoppello – Davanti al volto umano di Dio by Effatta editrice), Badde sums up the latest developments in the cautious process of the recognition of this precious relic, to include essential new findings about this Holy Face; and Badde does it in a very illuminating manner. Thankfully, it is being translated already into English, and as soon as it is available, we will inform our readers about it. Additionally, EWTN will now air two short documentary films about Badde’s sustained work on the Holy Face; and I highly recommend our readers to watch them, if possible. The airing times are:

11/8 6:30pm ET
11/9 2:30am ET

11/17  6:30pm ET
11/18  3:00am ET

In light of Paul Badde’s different and tireless efforts to promote the truth about the Holy Veil of Manoppello, it is understandable that the city of Manoppello has already officially honored him: in 2010, Manoppello has given both Pope Benedict XVI and Paul Badde each one of the two existing honorary keys of the city!

Picture of Pope Innocent III with the Holy Face in Procession of the year 1208.Courtesy of Paul Badde

Paul Badde often starts his story about this relic with the story of a saint. In this case, that saint’s name is Padre Domenico da Cese, a stigmatist Capuchin monk who has been declared Servant of God in 2015 and whose ecclesiastical process of canonization is underway. When people from Manoppello used to visit St. Padre Pio, Padre Pio himself would ask them why they would come to him, since they have their own saint in Padre Domenico.

At the age of ten, in 1915, Padre Domenico had been buried, together with his father, under the ruins of a Church in Italy. An earthquake had shaken that region of Avezzano. Both son and father were later rescued by an unknown man who afterwards disappeared. It was only decades later – Padre Domenico had already become a priest and Capuchin monk – that he saw the Holy Face of Manoppello and recognized in that Holy Face that it was God Himself who had come to his help under the Church ruins.

After that recognition, Padre Domenico sought and received permission to spend the rest of his life there in Manoppello, spending hours at night and during the day in prayer before Our Lord. It was Padre Domenico who was to discover in 1968, and one day before his death, St. Padre Pio himself in front of that Holy Image, kneeling in prayer. When spoken to, Padre Pio said: “I do not trust myself any more. Pray for me. Goodbye until we meet again in Paradise.”  As it turnd out, he was then bilocating, and it was to be his last bilocation. But Padre Pio apparently knew where to go for special help.

Paul Badde, in his devoutly affectionate booklet, shows how it was this priest, Padre Domenico, who was the first to suggest that this silken cloth with the Holy Face imprinted on it was indeed the sudarium that was first found on Easter Morning by St. John the Evangelist in the tomb and upon which sight he had said: “And he saw and believed.” If it is true that it was this same image, imprinted on one of the burial cloths (this silken one was then put only on the face of the dead, as St. John himself mentions), was then seen by St. John, then we may well have the picture of how Our Lord actually looked, though somewhat disfigured still, from His Passion. The veil contains, as Badde puts it, “the first breath of the resurrected Lord.”

Picture of a fresco from the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew in Frankfurt, from around 1300.Courtesy of Paul Badde

Let us now consider some of the cumulative facts that have come to us through Badde’s work:

  • From early on, art history shows the Face of Our Lord depicted on a silken cloth, often held up by St. Michael the Archangel himself; on that cloth as depicted by art, Our Lord has His eyes open;
  • Already in the 11th century, there are songs to be found which explicitly mention not only the shroud (of Turin), but also the sudarium (Sudarium et Vestes);
  • Just like the Shroud of Turin, the image on the Volto Santo is a miraculous image, inasmuch as no paint traces are to be found on it, and inasmuch as the silken-like material stems from the “hair” (Haftfäden in German) of sea mussels upon which one cannot paint. Whereas the Shroud of Turin shows Christ in His death on linen, the Volto Santo shows us a glimpse of the Risen Christ on silk;
  • Moreover, as Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer – a Trappist nun who has lived since 2003 in Manoppello as a hermit, researcher, and promoter of the Volto Santo – is able to show, the size of the face of Our Lord on the Shroud of Turin is identical (and congruent) with the size of the Holy Face of Manoppello;
  • The Volto Santo is identical with the Holy Image that has been revered in Rome for centuries, but under the name Veronica. Only in 2011, the Director of the Vatican Museum admitted publicly that the antique relic of the Volto Santo“had been lost during the Sacco di Roma in 1527”; this admission was later removed from the Vatican’s website, since the Vatican still shows, once a year, and from high aloft in St. Peter’s Basilica, an image of Jesus described as Veronica, but which now turns out to be a sort of a copy of the original;
  • Old Christian texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries seem to speak about this Volto Santo, as Klaus Berger, a theologian, has recently discovered. In one of these texts, there is talk about a heavenly cloth in which the son of a king recognizes himself as in a mirror; this same image has also been referred to and used by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy when speaking in the 33rd Canto about the image of God “painted in its own color with our own likeness”;
  • That same theologian – Klaus Berger – also discovered an old Missal from the year 620 in which St. Mary Magdalene covers her tears with the Sudariumwhich “had been left behind by Jesus in the tomb so that it may give witness to His Resurrection.” Professor Berger also found instructions for conducting the Latin Liturgy, according to Amalarius of Metz (775 -850), in which he describes that the altar cloths for Roman Masses are corresponding to the Passion and Resurection of Jesus Christ, using the same names: sindon (linen cloth) and sudarium (veil; face cloth). Since that time, the altar cloths had to be linen (until 1969), and the corporal had to be folded in a special way, according to the description presented by St. John in his Gospel;
  • Paul Badde points out that, because of this analogy to the tomb and Resurrection of Christ, until 1969 the altar always had to be made similar to the stone bench upon which Jesus Christ was laid; mere tables were thus rejected;
  • Emperor Charlemagne had a painting made by an artist who, after visiting Rome (and probably the Volto Santo) depicted Christ in a manner similar to the Volto Santo: with His open eyes (the white shining under the pupil), open mouth and a curl on top of His forehead;
  • In 1208, Pope Innocent III, for the first time, presented the Holy Face to the public, on Omnis Terra Sunday when he himself carried it from St. Peter’s Basilica over to the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. An historical depiction of that procession clearly shows once more that it was the Volto Santo that was depicted here;
  • On 16 January 2016, again on Omnis Terra Sunday, Archbishop Georg Gänswein (the personal secretary of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI), for the first time in centuries, celebrated a Solemn Mass in Santo Spirito in Sassia after a procession in which there had been carried again the Volto Santo (in the form of a copy) from  St. Peter’s Basilica to that old church. In his own homily, Archbishop Gänswein publicly spoke about the Volto Santo which “Pope Innocent III had first shown to pilgrims what has been preserved in a hidden way, for more than 400 hundred years, in the Abbruzzi mountains near the Adriatic Sea,” [emphasis added] and which now is on the way to return to Rome, to “that place where the public cult of its public veneration had first originated”;
  • During the period of 13th until the 16th centuries (when the Holy Veil disappeared in Rome) – that is to say, the time after the first public display of the Volto Santo in Rome – many depictions of the Volto Santo are to be found in Church art, showing the Face of Our Lord on a silken cloth, depicting Himself with open eyes, with white under His pupils, and a curl on His forehead;
  • It was Pope Benedict XVI who, on 1 September 2006 – for the first time since the loss of the Volto Santo in the 16th century – visited, as pope, the holy relic in Manoppello. He himself thus silently started the process of giving back this holy image to the whole Christian world, first doing it on his knees and with his manifest prayers;
  • In 2017, when a new – third – feast was established for the procession with the Volto Santo in Manoppello, it was fixed on Omnis Terra Sunday of each year, every second Sunday after Epiphany. The main celebrant of this year’s liturgical celebration was a former judge of the Roman Rota, Monsignor Americo Ciani – who was a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica and who, as such, had often shown to the faithful the copy of the Volto Santo on high and above from the Loggia in St. Peter’s. In his own homily, it was Monsignor Ciani who publicly said that this relic is the Holy Veil which had been carried through Rome by Pope Innocent III in the year 1208, and which later had got lost in the year 1527 (during the Sack of Rome). Additionally, this clergyman also declared that this Volto Santo is the very same sudarium that had been found by St. John himself in the empty tomb on Easter Sunday – who then himself wrote: “He saw and believed.”
  • Both Cardinal Robert Sarah and Cardinal Joachim Meisner, two great prelates of the Catholic Church, visited the Holy Face of Manoppello and were deeply touched by it. Cardinal Sarah said in Manoppello: “Here in Manoppello we face the face of God face to face.”

May we all come to be inspired by this Holy Image. May we look into His gaze and be touched by His loving look and thus be even transformed by that look of Divine Love. And may this enlightened sense of love for Jesus Christ inspire us to persevere  in our fidelity to the Faith during these protracted times of trial.

Note of the author: We invite readers to download a picture (HERE) of the Volto Santo, then to frame it and put it reverently some place in his home. We especially recommend that one kneel in front of it and read the Gospels in front of it, intermittently looking into the Face of Him Who is speaking to us in the New Testament.