Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Documentary on History of the Holy Face in Manoppello to be Released on May 12

Fr. Donato da Bomba, author of Relatione Historica, as portrayed by the Capuchin Brother Crispino Valeri


The Rediscovered Face of Jesus, a journey into the places, the legends and the history of the Holy Face of Manoppello

Duration   67 minutes

Produced by Territori-Link cultural Association (www.territorilink.it)

Year of production 2017

Creation and direction by Anna Cavasinni and Fabrizio Franceschelli

from left Fr. Donato Martorella, director of the choir “Zimarino di Chieti”,  Ida Di Renzo,Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, 
Anna Cavasinni, Antonio Bini, Annamaria Di Vincenzo, Fabrizio Franceschelli (photo by  Francesca Esposito Bini)


Anna Cavasinni and Fabrizio Franceschelli, creators of the docufilm

       We made this documentary over a period of two years, from 2015 to 2017. As part of our work as documentary filmmakers, we have often dealt with aspects of human life: from history to economics, to traditions and to religious culture, with a special focus on Abruzzo, our land. The strong commitment to this new work arises from the suggestion of the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, S.E. Mgr. Bruno Forte, President of CEAM (Episcopal Conference of Abruzzo-Molise), who, on several occasions, expressed his appreciation for our initiatives.

                  We started this new work by addressing the topic with extreme caution and with a scientific and anthropological approach. With time, our interest and love have increased the more we were discovering. And the long productive path has been full of pleasant surprises. We met and interviewed people of great knowledge and authority and, along with them, laypeople and pilgrims full of faith and devotion.

This work The Rediscovered Face of Jesus describes the Shrine of the Holy Face, the town of Manoppello, its vast area and the foothills area. Abruzzo is described with a strong spiritual and religious imprint, a very rich place in its landscape and architecture. There is the Maiella with hermitages such as St. Spirito and St. Bartolomeo, with the deep valleys and the tholos-shaped houses of peasants and shepherds. There are places of worship such as St. Clement a Casauria, St. Liberatore and St. Maria Arabona and even more distant places, linked to a hypothetical journey of the "pilgrim" mentioned in the Relatione Historica of Father Donato da Bomba. This justifies the presence of the church of St. Francesco in Tagliacozzo, the ancient Alba Fucens, the castle of the Counts of Celano, the Basilica of St. Pelino in Corfinio, the hermitage of St. Donofrio sul Morrone ...

                The story is enlivened by re-enactments with extras wearing traditional costumes referring to the Relatione Historica of Capuchin Father Donato da Bomba, possible thanks to the great collaboration of cultural associations of the provinces of Chieti and Pescara and the Manoppello district, as well as numerous local inhabitants. Being a self-financed work and rich in historical re-enactments, in conjunction with the Municipality of Manoppello, we have successfully involved the whole population. The response was in fact spontaneous with a large participation. In this regard it is a duty to thank the cultural association "Arabona", the "Voloentieri" non-profit organization of Casoli, the "Teate Nostra" cultural association of Chieti, the local tourist board "Pro Loco", the Theatrical Association and the choir of Manoppello, the Association "Guferia" and the Choreographic Center "Corpi in Movimento".

The rich collection of testimonies of laypeople, pilgrims and those who received miracles gives color, passion and deep spirituality to the plot of the docufilm. Plus, the interviews given by prominent religious authorities, such as the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Mons. Bruno Forte, the Rector of the Shrine Father Carmine Cucinelli, the Canon of the Basilica of St. Peter, Mons. Americo Ciani, the Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, are of great theological value too.

                    Among the scholars and researchers, we met two witnesses of great authority: Sister Blandina Paschalis Schlömer and Father Heinrich Pfeiffer. We also interviewed the German journalist and writer Paul Badde, the master weaver of marine byssus Chiara Vigo and Antonio Bini, communication director of the Shrine.

                     In the docufilm there are also references to important historical facts, such as the coming to Abruzzo of Pope Paul VI, with the exhibition on the Holy Face set up in Pescara in 1977 by the Capuchin father Domenico da Cese; the pilgrimage visit to the Shrine of Manoppello in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, the re-enactment carried out in January 2016 in Rome of the procession with the Holy Face which had been inaugurated in 1208 by Pope Innocent III.

                    Thanks to the funding of the Presidency and the Department of Cultural Policies of the Abruzzo Region, in collaboration with the City of Manoppello, we have edited the work in six languages: Italian, French, English, Polish, Spanish and German.

Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto

The DVD dedicated to the Holy Face present in the Sanctuary of Manoppello, visited on September 1, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, who came to pay homage to the brothers of the faith, is a valuable documentary full of precious information. In addition to highlighting the truly international fame of the Veil, venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox (as evidenced by the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Basilica of Manoppello in September 2016 by the Orthodox Members of the International Mixed Commission between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches together, in the presence of Catholic Members), it emphasizes both the local devotion of the inhabitants of Abruzzo, as well as the one that is developing in the most diverse places on the planet. 

A devotion rooted in history, as shown by the stages of the carefully evoked story.starting with the journey of the Holy Veil from Jerusalem to Rome to the Relatione Historica of Father Donato da Bomba. From the entrusting of the precious Relic to the Capuchin Friars of Manoppello, to the visit of Pope Paul VI in Pescara in 1977 for the National Eucharistic Congress and at the exhibition organized - on that same occasion - by Father Domenico da Cese. Even including the spreading of the news over the Alps thanks to the studies of Sister Blandina Schlömer and Father Heinrich Pfeiffer S.J. as well as the pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI, broadcast by over seventy television networks from around the world and about three hundred newspapers. The "Omnis Terra" rite, celebrated in Rome in January 2016 presided over by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, and that of January 2017 in Manoppello presided over by Msgr. Americo Ciani, the significant participation of the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle at the procession on  May 21, 2017, are the many signs of how the veneration of the Holy Face is spreading from Manoppello throughout the world.

It is a devotion with a strong biblical inspiration, expressed in the verse of Psalm 27: "Your face, Lord, I seek. Do not hide your face from me"(vv 8ff). David, the beloved, seeks the revealed and hidden face of his God: revealed face, because it could not be looked for if it had not already reached and charmed our heart; and yet, hidden face, because the desire for a luminous and full vision remains alive. The face of the Lord, in short, always wants to be sought: that is also suggested by the Hebrew word "panim", "face", plural word, which tells how the face is continually new and different, never equal to itself and yet always the same, as is the love of God, faithful forever and therefore new in every season of the heart; a single face with many faces, as many as there are hours and forms of His mercy. In the "fullness of time" the desired and hidden Face offered itself to us in Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 1: 1-3). In him we contemplate the longed-for Face (see Jn 12: 45ff). Yet even the encounter with Him, lived in faith, refers to the fullness of vision, when the Son of Man will come in glory and His beloved Face will be together a gaze of truth and a judgment of infinite compassion.

The pilgrimage of those who believe aims at the fully-accomplished meeting: even for the disciple of Jesus, the contemplated Face ignites the desire, referring to a new and hidden depth, ultimate and definitive, promised and given as a deposit, yet not fully manifested. Therefore, over the centuries the Christian faith has always sought that Face to rest its thirst, from which they could draw peace, an anticipation of eternal beauty: the Face of Christ has been represented, evoked, pursued. The East has established a "canonical" form, which respects an archetype that is transmitted by the faithful memory and by the custody of the heart. Of this archetype perhaps the most original example - according to careful research especially in recent years - could be the Holy Face itself, kept in the Sanctuary of Manoppello: for five centuries the image, that was not painted or woven but impressed by a sort of explosion of light, very similar to that of the Shroud, continues to attract pilgrims, who come to draw from it the grace of the sacrament of forgiveness, of the Word that illuminates, of the Bread of eternal life. That is how the Face is welcomed in the hearts of those who have come all the way here to let themselves be reconciled with God, pacified in His forgiveness, touched by His mercy that frees and saves.

A heartfelt thank you goes to the producers of this DVD and all those who will promote it in Italy and in the world, for evocatively showing all this with a rigorous documentation, accompanied by the necessary discretion as well as for having made available to many a first, possible access to the meeting with the venerated Face at Manoppello.


Father Carmine Cucinelli Rector of the Basilica of the Holy Face

      I greet with joy the birth of the documentary film: "Il Volto Ritrovato di Gesù" (The Holy Face of Jesus in Manoppello), by Anna Cavasinni and Fabrizio Franceschelli.

       When the authors asked me to collaborate in the realization of their project, I immediately joined and gave all the possible contribution. There are already several films on the Holy Face, also of fine workmanship, starting with the first documentary, directed by Giancarlo Pecenko, which was realized precisely on the impulse of the Capuchins in the now distant 1956. But, to be honest, we did lack a documentary like this, analyzing the devotion of the Holy Face of Manoppello nowadays, in the life of the shrine, where it is kept. In fact, in the documentary, while the story is told in filigree - through the "Relatione Historica" ​​of the Capuchin father Donato da Bomba - it is brought to life again through events, recurrences and testimonies. The authors have put a lot of passion, expertise and patience, managing to involve a large number of people, from scientists, historians and laypeople for testimonies, interviews or simple extras. Seeing this film, the viewer can clarify the ideas about the meaning of the Holy Face and the extraordinary importance of this "relic" today and the fame it has had in past centuries as well as to be able to learn to distinguish the Sudarium from the Shroud and the Veronica.

         I am glad that the authors have highlighted the Capuchin work carried out for about five centuries, as well as in the present, always discreet and with a constant and tireless commitment to the preservation of the relic and to the growing diffusion of its devotion, in Italy and in many nations of the world and, at the same time, in the daily welcoming of pilgrims.

        This documentary is "alive", dynamic, made not to impress with sophisticated tricks, but made with simplicity and naturalness to promote knowledge and devotion. Despite this, the viewer will also find beautiful fictional scenes set in the Manoppello of the past, with period costumes that will brighten their eyes and their heart. Furthermore, many flashbacks are placed in the right places to connect together past history and today's reality. The title: "The Rediscovered Face of Jesus" is both a program of life and a wish for those who will watch the film: rediscover the true Face of Jesus to be attracted by Him and to become one with Him. This important goal can be achieved only by strongly impressing the Face in our heart, through our involvement in his life, passion, death and resurrection.

Antonio Bini, communication director at the Sanctuary of the Holy Face

           When at the end of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 John Paul II - in his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" - analyzed the intense Jubilee that had just passed, with an eye to the third millennium, he invited Christians to resume the ordinary journey, bringing into the soul the richness of lived experiences, with "the gaze that remains more fixed than ever on the Face of the Lord" (see paragraph II, "Un volto da contemplare").

            All this just a few years before the Holy Face was re-emerging after centuries of oblivion.           Responding to  the call of the pope himself, Card. Fiorenzo Angelini (1916-2014), at the beginning of 1997, decided to set up the International Research Institute on the Face of Christ, inviting to collaborate Prof. Heinrich Pfeiffer S.J., professor of Christian art at the Gregorian University of Rome, who, during the first congress held in Rome in the autumn of the same year, said that according to his studies the Veronica, which was believed to be lost, was in reality the Veil kept in Manoppello.

in the photo at left-center Cardinal Angelini, at right-center Fr. Germano di Pietro,
at right  Sr. M. Maurizia Biancucci, Mother General Congregation of  Benedictine Sisters Consolers of the Holy Face

           We know that the cardinal informed the Pope on several occasions by discussing with him the theses that emerged during the congress. John Paul II himself opened with his preface the acts of the second congress of the following autumn, expressing the hope "that the veneration and the study of the Holy Face could prepare the minds for the special reflection on the Person of the Father ... in preparation for the great Jubilee of the Year 2000 ".

            We therefore believe we can say, also in the light of what happened in the following years, that the Polish Pope had clear in mind the themes and hypotheses that emerged during the first international congresses. It should also be noted that in the apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente", which triggered preparations for the Jubilee since 10 November 1994, the consideration on the centrality of Christ, also historical, frequently recurred, while there was no reference to his Face.

             Cardinal Angelini himself had meanwhile become a devoted visitor to the Holy Face in Manoppello, so much as to put under its protection "the present and the future of the dear Congregation of Benedictine Sisters Consolers  of the Holy Face", of which he was a spiritual guide and had been involved it in the organization of the Institute's activities (see Register of Shrine guests, Nov. 6, 1997).

From left Fr. Germano di Pietro, Antonio Bini, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, S.J.

           In spring 1999 the theses on the discovery of Veronica (vera-ikon) advanced by Professor Pfeiffer left the scientific context to be exhibited in a crowded press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press in Italy, together with the results of some scientific research edited by Professor Donato Vittore of the University of Bari on the peculiarity of the veil and of the same image impressed on it. In the same conference -attended also by Professor Germano Di Pietro, the then rector of the Sanctuary - Professor Pfeiffer documented how the Holy Face-Veronica ought to be considered the prototype of Christ's image spread throughout the centuries, highlighting also the outcome of the studies of the German iconographer Sr. Blandina Paschalis Schlömer, which demonstrated the superposition of the Holy Face with that of the Shroud. The interest aroused by the conference was significant and various sources of information broadcast the news in Italy and abroad, when the Jubilee was imminent. But it was a complete random coincidence, about which I still wonder, and certainly not the kind of thinking aimed at the imminent Jubilee event.

             In the year 2000 the plenary indulgence for the Jubilee was granted for the first time in the history of the Shrine.

             But let's try to describe this extraordinary image. It is a very thin veil - likely to be marine byssus fabric - visible on both sides - measuring 24 x 17.5 cm. It shows the suffering face of a man, traditionally believed to be the Face of Christ. Entering the church, the image of the veil crossed by light appears completely transparent, practically invisible. Approaching the altar,by either from the left or right side, you gradually perceive the appearance of a face. The same image - on the other side of the reliquary - can be closely observed  by climbing the steps behind the altar. Once there, you simply can’t help looking at his eyes, his living gaze, intense and deep, which is difficult to forget.

            The veil is kept between two panes of glass enclosed by an ancient wooden frame created by the Capuchin Fra Remigio da Rapino in 1618, in the same year in which the sacred image was obtained by Dr. De Fabritiis, who kept it devoutly in his home in Manoppello.

             In August 1714, when the glass was replaced, the image on the byssus somehow disappeared; it just could not be seen. The then guardian, the Swiss Fr. Antonio da Poschiavo hurried to put the original glasse panes back and the Face was again visible, as documented by a written testimony kept in the Shrine, signed by the guardian himself. Since then, the frames have not been opened again.

              Thanks to  new technologies, studying the image without opening the glass is no longer a problem. Until a few years ago it was somehow difficult to take pictures or reproduce the Holy Face, but thanks to these technologies it is currently possible.

A mysterious pilgrim brought the Holy Face to Manoppello at the beginning of the sixteenth century. But his story was documented only during the following century, when Dr. Donatantonio De Fabritiis, who had previously purchased it, decided in the year 1638 to donate it to the Capuchins. The father provincial of the Capuchins then commissioned the preacher and theologian Father Donato da Bomba to draft a report explaining and documenting the object of the donation and therefore its known history. The results of this research led Father Donato to draft the Relatione Historica (1640-1646), which is an object of very recent studies that confirm its historical reliability (see E. Colombo, M. Colombo, Relatione Historica d’una miracolosa imagine del volto di Cristo, ed. Marietti, Milan, 2016).

Returning to the description of the veil, Father Donato da Bomba in person specified that it was not a painting but a "divine thing" and that "the brush cannot portray it ... being it painted out of the material". Father Donato, in support of what he says, also bears witness to the failed attempt by "one of the best painters in the province" to paint the image by reproducing it in the same way it appears.

               Of course, many other attempts were made in vain until the present day. The Holy Face was not initially exposed to the public and the same Relatione Historica was poorly disclosed, despite having been reproduced into several copies and held in some friaries in Abruzzo for obvious security reasons. The Capuchins have always been fully aware of the extraordinary importance of that prodigious Face, which they had to protect and take special care of. Only in 1703 was it carried for the first time in a procession, as a result of pressure from the local population worried because of earthquakes. For centuries the Holy Face, while remaining hidden from the world in a peripheral area of ​​Italy, was at the center of the local heartfelt and widespread popular devotion, with many people who, without waiting for the results of studies and research, have always looked with hope and faith to this extraordinary image. Even today, pilgrim companies from neighboring towns arrive annually in Manoppello with their banners flying above their heads, no longer on foot as they once used to do, to attend the annual celebration on the third Sunday of May.

                                Until the early 1960s they walked, days and days of a hard journey over mountains and hills. The communities coming from the nearest villages, led by their parish priests, reached the Shrine carrying their patron saint in procession. This is rather unusual in traditional popular devotion yet, at the same time, emblematic of how deeply felt was the centrality attributed also in the past to the Holy Face, whose veneration had to involve other saints. There are many testimonies of miracles and many people have wanted to leave a remembrance of them in the Shrine over time. A significant turning point came only in September 1977, when the Servant of God Father Domenico da Cese (1905-1978) wanted to set up an exhibition on the Holy Face on the occasion of the National Eucharistic Congress in Pescara that would have seen the presence of Pope Paul VI. A bold decision if we think that the organizers of the Congress had ignored the Holy Face, despite the long phase of preparation of the event.

                                 On September 17, 1977, there were two hundred thousand people waiting for the Pope, and still others had been in town during the week of the event (September 11-18). The news about the existence of the Holy Face ended up also reaching the well-known biographer of Padre Pio, Renzo Allegri, who wanted to write an article on the sacred image during the exposition of the Shroud in Turin in September 1978. In those days Father Domenico had gone to Turin to see the Shroud, which he had long claimed to be in the tomb of Christ together with the Holy Face (the Sudarium mentioned in the Gospel of John - Jn 20, 6-7). Father Domenico did not return to Manoppello alive, dying in Turin on September 17, 1978, due to a traffic accident, exactly one year after Paul VI's visit to Pescara. But the article published by Allegri in the weekly magazine Gente of September 30, 1978 began to take the Holy Face far beyond the local borders, all the way to a Swiss Catholic magazine. A copy ended up in the hands of sister Blandina in her convent in Dahlem, in Germany, with the extraordinary consequences we all know it had in the following years.

 Other scholars approached the Holy Face. Among these we cannot forget Saverio Gaeta and Paul Badde. The latter, in particular, has dedicated years of passionate commitment to further broaden the themes of research and relationships with other scholars. From his first essay, published in Germany in 2004, he personally informed the then Cardinal Ratzinger, who only a few months later would become Pope with the name of Benedict XVI. 

On September 1, 2006 something as hoped for as unexpected occurred: the pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI to Manoppello following the invitation of Msgr. Bruno Forte, archbishop of the diocese of Chieti-Vasto. A memorable visit that seems to have been opposed by the Vatican hierarchy, so much that it was made public only just a few days before. It was the first time that a pope visited the Shrine, meeting, among others. scholars whose thesis on the identification of the Holy Face with the Veronica Pope Benedict knew very well and as well, the disappearance of the legendary image that occurred at the time of the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Forte (partially hidden), Fr. Andreas Resch, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer,
Paul Badde, Sr. Blandina Schloemer

 We still remember the palpable emotion of Benedict XVI in prayer before the Holy Face. In the same month of September the Pope elevated the Shrine to the status of a Basilica and, exactly one year after his visit to Manoppello, he sent the Capuchins the prayer to the Holy Face which he himself had compsed. After the pilgrimage of Benedict XVI, the number of pilgrims who came from all over the world has grown sharply, including believers of other religions. Yet, the Shrine on the slopes of the Maiella mountain continues to be an oasis of simplicity and spirituality.

                                   A few years later, the director of the Vatican Museums during an interview granted to the newspaper Il Resto del Carlino of August 18, 2011 on the exhibition "The Man, the Face, the Mystery. Masterpieces of the Vatican Museums ", set up in San Marino, incidentally admitted - breaking a centuries-old silence - that  the Veronica had disappeared at the time of the Sack of Rome in 1527.

             It seems useful to remember how Father Andreas Resch - authoritative scholar of paranormal phenomena - in an interview given to the Rivista del Volto Santo in 2001 had already expressed his conviction that the Holy Face (Veronica) had been brought to Manoppello, outside the borders of the Papal States, to be hidden and kept safe on the slopes of the Maiella, a mountain symbol of sacredness and spirituality, that Petrarch, in his work "De Vita Solitaria" prophetically described as "Domus Christi" (the house of Christ).

             The years following the Pope’s visit were very intense and full of important events. Among these, worthy of  mention is the International Workshop on the Scientific Approach Acheiropoietos Images promoted by ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in the Frascati Research Center from May 4 to 6, 2010, with a scientific comparison on the three acheropite images (not made by human hands): The Holy Face, the Shroud and the Tilma of Guadalupe, with the participation of various scholars from all over the world. Exhibition events were organized in many cities in Italy and abroad. Among these exhibitions, the one held in Rimini in the summer of 2013, then replicated in New York, entitled "Il Volto Ritrovato: the unmistakable features of Christ" along with the one set up in the Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes at the request of the bishop of the diocese of Tarbes-Lourdes, Philippe Perrier, already a pilgrim to Manoppello - are considered to be outstanding.

               Beginning in 2014, the phenomenon of the enthronement of the Holy Face began spreading in churches in various countries, triggered by an American devotee, Daisy Neves and her friends scattered across the United States, the Philippines, Canada, Poland and Lebanon. In 2015, the Immaculate Conception church in Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija, was transformed by the local bishop into a Shrine dedicated to the Holy Face, the object of pilgrimages from all the Philippines. A confirmation of the spread of the veneration of the Holy Face in the Philippines was expressed by the same Cardinal of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, on the occasion of the May festival of 2017, also participating in the procession from the Shrine to the town, up to the parish church of St. Nicholas. Many were the cardinals who, in recent years, have met the Holy Face even before the papal pilgrimage, but Cardinal Tagle more than others did not hide his emotions, publicly manifesting his enthusiasm, claiming to feel welcomed by the Holy Face, who defined it "the living face of Christ. The face of truth".

               In the course of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Misericordiae Vultus), announced by Pope Francis for the year 2016, an event of particular historical and religious importance took place, with the re-enactment of the ancient rite of Omnis Terra, which Pope Innocent III had established in 1208, on the second Sunday after Epiphany, bringing the Veronica in a procession, accompanied by sanons of St. Peter's, from the Basilica to the nearby church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, located in the center of the ancient hospital of Santo Spirit, built for the pilgrims who went to Rome. These canons, a limited number of prelates designated directly by the pope, had among their tasks the custody of the relics present in St. Peter, including the Veronica, which in the past was also described by Dante and Petrarch. Among other things, one of the most interesting illustrations of Veronica –dating back to even before 1527 –is contained in the precious Liber regulae Sancti Spiritus in Saxia, in which it is represented in the hands of Pope Innocent III. The image shows a clear resemblance to the Holy Face.

             For the occasion many citizens of Manoppello went on pilgrimage to Rome led by the rector of the Shrine Father Carmine Cucinelli, together with the choir of the Basilica of the Holy Face, along with other laypeople and pilgrims coming from abroad.

            On 16 January 2016, the copy of the Holy Face was carried in procession from St. Peter to S. Spirito in Sassia, welcomed by the rector, mons. Josef Bart. During the solemn Mass presided over by Msgr. Georg Gänswein, together with two canons of St. Peter, the Lebanese archbishop Edmond Farhat and Mons. Americo Ciani as well as a number of prelates including Father Pfeiffer, the Prefect of the Pontifical House affirmed in his homily "that in an almost miraculous way the copy of that ancient original that Pope Innocent III showed to pilgrims, whose original has been kept in Abruzzo for four hundred years, in a peripheral area of ​​Italy, from where today it has been brought back for the first time to the place where its public veneration began."

             A year later, during the homily of the first edition of the Omnis Terra ritual held in Manoppello, Msgr. Americo Ciani, in line with the considerations of Msgr. Gänswein, addressed these words to those bystanders: "Here we are gathered to contemplate the Face of God, who became flesh in His Son, Jesus. This precious relic, ‘the human Face of God’, jealously guarded here in Manoppello, was venerated by Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006. After 479 years, he knelt before what had been the most precious treasure of the Popes."

              After centuries of silence, ambiguity and reticence, the face of Christ is back in history.
I visited the Shrine for the first time, in 1998, on the occasion of a conference on the Holy Face promoted by the local tourist board to which I had been invited. I then met Prof. Pfeiffer and was deeply fascinated by his research and above all by his theses, back then completely isolated and harshly opposed. Since then I began to collaborate with the Shrine, becoming myself a witness of extraordinary events that I have tried to document and tell, as in this summary, working so that the Holy Face might become known to all, in order that the aspiration of all mankind could become a reality for good: knowing and contemplating the true Face of Christ.

 For further information – visit the websites

first screening of the docufilm at the Teatro Marrucino of Chieti with Archbishop Forte and Father Cucinelli in the front row (photo by Francesca Esposito Bini)

 Creation and direction by Anna Cavasinni and Fabrizio Franceschelli

Fabrizio Fransceschelli and Anna Cavasinni being interviewed about their new Holy Face docufilm 
(photo by Francesca Esposito Bini)

Anna Cavasinni and Fabrizio Franceschelli are two directors and anthropologists who have worked with the Italian national television network RAI for forty years now, ever since their directorial debut. Between the 1970s and the early 1990s they individually produced a large number of short films for cinema - short monographs of less than 15 minutes - many of them shot in Abruzzo. Together they wrote screenplays for TV originals and worked together on them as directors.  

During the 1990s they worked as directors for the three different RAI networks. Anna Cavasinni then collaborated with RAI Cultura and RAI Storia and Fabrizio Franceschelli for Chi l'ha Visto?, a program dedicated to missing people and unsolved crimes, to which the author is still delegated after 25 years. 

Together they have been carrying out anthropological research on transhumance (nomadic shepherding) for 40 years, a theme that has led them to make several series of documentaries, going as far as Finnmark in northern Norway. Individually they held courses and seminars for several years at the University "G. D'Annunzio. " In fact, Cavasinni graduated in Arts and specialized in Social Research and Franceschelli graduated in History and Philosophy with a focus on human sciences. 

The two authors have been working on another important and original topic since 2005: La Guerra in casa (The war at home), on the Second World War in Abruzzo, of which so far 10 episodes have been made. Among the best-known titles worth to mention are Chieti città aperta (NdT: Chieti open city), La Brigata Maiella (NdT: The Maiella Brigade), L’eccidio dei Limmari (NdT: The massacre of the Limmari) (on the massacre of Pietransieri), La fuga del re, 1942: Natale in Russia (The escape of the king, 1942: Christmas in Russia) (on the alpine troopers of the Brigade of L'Aquila). 

The particular interest of Anna Cavasinni for the sea has also led to the realization of some important documentaries: La tonnara di Bertino (on tuna fishing in the Adriatic Sea), La pescatrice (on an old and very bright fisherwoman from Casalbordino), La costa dei trabocchi. Among their religious documentaries, we mention La Basilica di S. Maria dei Miracoli (on the Shrine of Casalbordino) and Il Volto ritrovato di Gesù (on the Shrine of Manoppello).

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Vision of Donatantonio De Fabritiis

                     Donation of the Holy Face to the Capuchin Friars of Manoppello (1638)

by Fabrizio Tricca

According to what is reported in a 1646 manuscript by Father Donato da Bomba O.F.M. Cap. (+1649) the Holy Face of Manoppello would have been delivered in 1506 by an unknown pilgrim who had arrived in Manoppello to a certain Giacomo Antonio Leonelli, Doctor and Physicist in astrology and the liberal arts. The Holy Veil stayed in his home for over a century until it was taken by force by the soldier and man of arms Pancrazio Petrucci as part of the inheritance of his wife, Marzia Leonelli (1588-1643), great-grand-daughter of Giacomo Antonio.

In 1618 a certain Baron Donato Antonio De Fabritiis (1588-1670) bought the Holy Face of Manoppello for 4 scudi (20 lire) from Marzia who had to sell the Sacred Veil (desired by all) to pay for the liberation of her husband Pancrazio who had finished in prison in Chieti. The baron was a physicist born of Baron Don Fabrizio and had taken for his wife the Baroness Madonna Claudia Cianthi (widow of Baron Achille Dario), from whom he had many sons. He was most learned in the sciences not only physical, but also theological and religious; and belonged to the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament, of which his father Don Fabrizio was several times Prior (i.e. in 1602, 1608, 1609) and in 1621 Auditor ("Razionale").

The Doctor was very pleased to possess that great Treasure until he realized that the Veil was reduced to a pitiful state: then he complained to the woman and immediately thought of returning it and recovering his money.  But God inspired him to talk about it with Father Clemente da Castelvecchio O.F.M. Cap. (+1635), who had been sent in 1617 by the father Provincial of the Capuchins to direct the construction of the friary that was rising in Manoppello on the Tarigni hill, who convinced the Doctor to keep the Holy Image and to thank the Lord for that gift he had given him. Afterwards, the Capuchin cleaned the veil from impurities and trimmed all the frayed borders of the fabric and a lay brother, Fra Remigio da Rapino O.F.M. Cap. (+1632), enclosed it between two panes of glass within a walnut frame (as it remains today).

De Fabritiis held the sacred relic with great dignity and assigned it a prominent place in his home which with the passage of time became a destination for illustrious people of the town and surrounding area because news had spread of the great treasure which he possessed and above all due to the regular visits of the father Provincial Sylvester da Acciano OFM, Cap. (+1637), who came to contemplate the Holy Face, and his successor Father Serafino Valignani O.F.M. Cap. (+1631) who greatly cooperated with his zeal and his influence at the beginning of the Friary.

After Donato Antonio had the Holy Face for about twenty years in his home he thought that it would be better that the Holy Face should be in a public place where it could benefit every human being and not just a few people.

In Manoppello there were at that time many churches and oratories, among which the most important were three parishes and three monasteries. The first, parish and mother church, was dedicated to San Nicola di Bari; the second to San Pancrazio Martyr; the third to St. John the Apostle Evangelist. Of the monasteries the first, of the Conventual Friars Minor, was named after the patriarch Saint Francis of Assisi; the second of the Capuchin Friars Minor,  dedicated to the Archangel Saint Michael; the third, of the Poor Clare Sisters, was entitled of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Virgin.  There were also two confraternities of lay people: one in honor of the Most Blessed Sacrament, established in the mother church of San Nicola di Bari; the other, of the Most Holy Rosary, in the church of St. Francis.

 Therefore the parish priests of the churches, the leaders of the religious houses, and the priors of the confraternities, as soon as they had known the thought of Donato Antonio, all competed with one another to persuade De Fabritiis regarding the sacred Treasure that he possessed.

But it was a mysterious force, which Donato Antonio called "a celestial and divine impulse", which drove him to give the Holy Image to the Capuchin Friars and he could not be opposed. Also because he had contributed, together with Baron Giovan Loreto Dario (his stepson), for the purchase of land for the site of the Capuchin friary, strongly desired by his father Fabrizio.

The reaction of the other "competitors" was of immense resentment, so that the aftershocks continued for hundreds of years, but they would have to accept the fait accompli.

So, in 1638 Donatantonio went up the winding road that led to the friary of Manoppello in the company of his family, not without emotion in his soul for the treasure that was leaving his home. He thought that he too, with great sacrifice, would go up there to find his good and to give thanks for the benefits accorded to his family. He went up to repeat to the Capuchin Fathers the words of the mysterious Pilgrim: "Guard it with great devotion, for the sake of this people and their souls".

The Fathers welcomed it with profound gratitude, first addressed to God and then to the great benefactor who enriched the church and the poor friary with a very important treasure.  Almost certainly there to welcome it was the Father Guardian Andrea da Roccadibotte O.F.M. Cap. (1585-1651). who before  becoming a Capuchin lead a life similar to the character Fra Cristoforo of Manzoni's novel The Betrothed: his name was Luciano Cacchione.  He was of a temperamental nature and committed actions before entering religion that were so serious as to be banished for  life. In a fight he had almost killed a certain Angelo Amadei.

Placing himself at the service of the noble Colonna family he remained there for three years with honorary titles and benefices.  He then decided to enter the Capuchins. There, like a young St. Paul, he was transformed so much that everyone was amazed by his humility, rigorous penance, fasting, continuous prayer accompanied by ecstasies during which he emitted copious sweat and looked like an angel in the flesh. He entered into the true wisdom and knowledge of heavenly things and had visions. Once he was shown the glory of the elect.

He convinced his relatives to forgive his brother's murderers. He had power over infernal spirits. He was charitable towards his neighbor by exercising a continuous and fruitful apostolate for his benefit. Through his intercession, graces without number were obtained while he was alive and after his death. He wrote verses filled with the unction of devotion. He became a great friend of Donato Antonio who continued to give gifts (Summa Theologica) and monetary offerings for the support of the Capuchins.

He died in the friary of Manoppello on March 7, 1651. On November 20, 1662, before the Provincial of the Capuchins Father Cherubino Stella da Ofena O.F.M. Cap. (+1692), the delegate Father Antonio Maria da Taggia completed the process for the beatification of the said Father Andrea. Among the many citizens  of Manoppello who participated in the process were Donato Antonio, the baroness Cianthi his wife, and his daughter Lady Anna.  With solemn oath they attested to various prodigies accomplished through the invocation and intercession of Father Andrea and by the application of some of his relics among which were his eyeglasses.

Donato Antonio was correct in that the knowledge and devotion of the Holy Face of Manoppello has spread and continues to spread throughout the world and many pilgrims come to the Basilica to contemplate it from up close. Everyone from near and far feels irresistible the call of the Face of Jesus:  He who has seen him even a thousand times longs to return to see him again; those who have never seen him feel drawn by a mysterious force to run to know him.

This happened also to the Holy Father Benedict XVI who came to Manoppello on September 1, 2006, to experience the sweetest moment of being able to bow down before the Holy Image, to be enraptured in  contemplation and to feel the sorrowful gaze of Jesus meet with that of his own and to enjoy the ineffable joy of contact with the divine..

The benefactor Donato Antonio was urged to donate the Holy Veil to a place where it would be within the reach of everyone, whether believers or not, because that Face calls us, invites us, comforts us, enriches us with graces, allows us a foretaste of supernatural joys and all those who go there have in their heart a secret hope  that after the "Encounter" life will be more beautiful.

On  August 5-7, 1938, solemn festivities took place in the friary and in the town to celebrate the third centenary of the donation by Donato Antonio De Fabritiis of the Holy Face to the Capuchin Church (1638-1938). Masses, vespers and discourses took place on August 5 and 6. On August. 7 a High Mass with a lengthy general Communion was celebrated by Mons. Giuseppe Venturi (1874-1947),  Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, assisted by Mons. Luciano Marcante (1888- 1978), Bishop of Valva and Sulmona who gave the homily.

The most successful part of the celebration was the procession, on the same day, from the Shrine to the town and back again, accompanied by Mons. Marcante in the midst of the indescribable enthusiasm of the crowd. After the procession returned to the Shrine, Archbishop Venturi from the pulpit delivered a profound discourse, arousing in all hearts a grateful memory. The liturgical music  was performed by the choir of Maestro G. Mancini with taste and finesse.  In the square in front of the Shrine a memorial monument was erected -- donated by the Surveyor Ottavio Mazzaferro.

This anniversary will certainly be celebrated in 2038 (the four-hundreth anniversary of the donation) hoping that in that year the Holy Face of Manoppello will then be the most sought after destination in all of Christendom (quoted by Father Germano Di Pietro, former Guardian of the Holy Face of Manoppello).

Friday, April 27, 2018

Father Domenico da Cese: Cataloging His Letters and Documents and First Results of Recent Research in Austria and Germany

by Sr. Petra-Maria Steiner

(summary of her talk delivered during the meeting of September 17,  2017 celebrating at the shrine of the Holy Face the 39th anniversary of the death of Father Domenico da Cese.)

First of all, I would like to thank Father Carmine and Father Eugenio for allowing me to catalog both the letters and the documents of Father Domenico da Cese. For me it is a bit like expressing my gratitude to Father Domenico who - as some of those present know - five years ago healed my bad knee. A real miracle!

It all started with the request of Antonio Bini who had brought me a copy of a letter written in German dating back to 1978, asking me to look into the references to Fr. Domenico. The author of the letter was the Austrian lady Ida Loidl, from the magazine "Grüß GOTT!" And then the name of the famous prelate Holböck from Salzburg surfaced.

About six months earlier I had accompanied two gentlemen from Frankfurt - the librarian Dr. Dirk Weisbrod and the lawyer René Udwari - to see the Holy Face and both were enthusiastic about it. When they said goodbye they told me that if I needed their help, they were ready . So Dr. Weisbrod looked for the magazine "Grüß Gott", as well as news of the prelate of Salzburg, who however had died in 2002 and his papers had not yet been made available.

Everything happened then as in a detective novel: Dr. Weisbrod started looking everywhere and the attorney Udwari opened doors that were closed to me. In a short time we came into possession of the first volumes of "Grüß Gott". And so we set up the "trio of Father Domenico"!

I told you all this just to make you understand how this work started. I would now like to talk to you about Father Domenico.

This image of the Holy Face you see now is the reason why I am today in Manoppello. In his first book on the Holy Face, Paul Badde wrote that above here, in the treasury of the shrine, there is a painting of Father Domenico da Cese. And since Father Domenico was a friend of Padre Pio, this painting, created by Angelo Patricelli at the beginning of 1978, had attracted my attention. When my sister and I came down from the treasury, we stayed inside the church for two hours and we experienced the Holy Face in its incredible vitality. I thus understand better and better why Padre Pio used to say: "Please save yourself the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, go to Father Domenico, it's the same thing!"

Father Domenico is a "fire friar". Both interiorly and all around him he was like "fire".

In 1905: his parents had been married for almost five years when a child finally came to be born, for whom they had implored the help of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Grace and who received the name, Emidio.

About 1909: this poor farmer whose only child,  at about 4 years old, had been struck by polio, by infantile paralysis, and could no longer move his legs. The mother confides the son to Mary, the Mother of God - the son was not useful for the work of the fields! But the Mother of Grace heals him - now he had become useful at work!

1915: Little Emidio, at 10 years old, foretells an earthquake. It happens that both his two sisters die in the earthquake and that he remains as the only child of his parents.

1917: at age 16 Emidio wants to enter a friary- impossible! The father shows only hardness and inflexibility. Emidio withdraws more and more in himself and prophesies that other children will be born.

1921: The father yields and accompanies him to the Capuchin friary in Avezzano. In a year he must complete the final two years of high school.

1922: He enters the novitiate in Penne, and takes the name of Dominic.

1925  Until he is 26 years old he is a military chaplain in Florence - fever rises up to 107 degrees, a terrible weakness and illness shake his body. But the more the body is tormented by the fire of fever and weakness, the stronger the fire of the love of God becomes in his soul increasing his desire to dedicate himself totally to the love of God.. He return to Avezzano and then to Cese. When the father Provincial tells him that he must go to Sulmona, he replies that his state of health does not allow him but he says yes by obedience. And he goes.

1931 In Sulmona he manages to attain his greatest desire: priestly ordination. Priest forever, consecrated to the heart of Jesus! And here begins his journey that has as its goal to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in men. For him, this means to purify more and more. He carries the cross of Jesus, his cross - and now he also carries the cross of others who rely more and more on him. The purer the gold, the greater the purification. Now begins a new phase of purification for him in order to ascend to God.

1933 His father dies and Father Domenico celebrates the funeral Mass for him.

In the years 1940-41 he experienced, with the war, the madness of the pride of men. He is sent to the territory of Bosnia. He sees an abandoned church ... who knows what horrors he saw there. But even here he proves to be a true son of St. Francis: he writes several times to the bishop who then gives him the task of searching for the faithful who would protect the parish registers and the sacred furnishings as well as of course the church.

In this terrible fire of war, cannons and bullets, Dominic says the Rosary holding a small cross in his hand. While he is praying, blood flows from the body of Christ: from the hands, the feet, the head and also from the heart. This is also seen by those who pray with him. The holy blood of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the redemption of the many who die or who are wounded.

In this theater of war, will Father Domenico da Cese become so much like Christ that he himself receives the wounds that bleed as the cross in his hands had previously? Some say yes, others say they have not seen any wound in him. Or maybe they only became visible from time to time?

Wounds are not necessary to be a saint. But some photos I found amazed me. Are not wounds seen?Can it not be that Father Domenico, as he was present, secretly, in bilocation at the funeral of Padre Pio, in the same way carried the wounds that were hidden only at certain times? On this, however, I leave to the judgment to the Church.

From the documents one can come to the conclusion that both his state of health and his love for the truth - which rejected every compromise - led to his early discharge from military service.

In 1960 he sees that in Campli the liturgical garments are not worthy of the feast days and that the people are too poor to buy new ones, so he addresses himself directly to the Pope or more precisely to the Holy See with the request to obtain new ones.

From 1946 until about 1964 he had to suffer difficulties from his brothers. More and more people appreciated him as a confessor and a spiritual father, more and more people were looking for him and became attached to him and this was certainly not easy for other Capuchins to accept. You know how it happens even within families: when someone wants to be something special!

The sanctity of someone either makes us grow in the desire to become saints too, or leads us to disdain the other - who we also make suffer. The closeness to God of Father Dominic, who expressed himself ever more in his youthful character, became a cross for others.

Imagine you are a part of a group photo and that there is always someone who raises their hands upwards, turning their eyes to the sky - he is once again the center of attention !!!

But he did not let himself be misled. In his marvelous child like character, he ascended more and more towards his Heavenly Father so that he knew exactly what he could obtain from Him by prayer. He lived more and more with God, his Heavenly Father and Mary and was quite like a child, so that the outside - this life - he did not care for.

The cross and the rosary became the theme of his life.

Later, Father Domenico went to Caramanico, a village where he was called the "Padre Pio of Abruzzo".   His reputation as a priest had spread so much that neither the mayor nor the inhabitants of Caramanico wanted to let him go to Manoppello and tried to change the mind of his father Provincial

 As for his health, it would have been better to stay there, as he himself had written to the provincial. But by obedience he was ready to leave. And so he left for Manoppello on July 13, 1967. Obedience always marked his whole spiritual life.

As in Sulmona his priestly life flourished through obedience, so in Manoppello he would reach perfection through obedience when he became the first great proclaimer of the Holy Face which had remained, as it were, lost from sight for around 450 years.

He knew how to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ; He knew that he held in his priestly hands, after the consecration, the Victor over death and put Him in the hearts of the faithful who came to communion. Perhaps the faithful knew very little about all this - today as then ?!

In the Holy Face he could make Jesus visible to their eyes. This is why Father Dominic never tired of climbing the stairs leading to the Holy Face to announce the good news.

Father Dominic was an ascetic, even though his outward appearance did not show it. He did not drink wine, only beer for the kidneys, he did not eat meat because he perceived that it had cost the death of an animal; he was dispensed by the  father provincial from attending the evening meal; for a long time he slept on the bare floor until, by obedience, he had to use a bed. Nevertheless, he had his favorite dish: potato gnocchi with tomato sauce.

When you read his letters, it is striking the fact that he always wrote to the edge of the page. His life was like his letters: he always came to the end, up to the edge, up to the border between the earth and heaven. He was a "explorer of the limits". Only those who were ready to go with him beyond the frontier of normality, of daily life, found in him a father, a friend, a confessor, a pastor, a helper, a teacher and even a brother - a priest according to the heart of God!

And a car that struck him as he was about to reach the sidewalk put an end to his life here on earth and to open the door of eternity. But with his death his work is not finished, indeed, his task has spread to the whole world.

All of us who are here today, like all those who collaborate to make known the Holy Face, are following in his footsteps.

To conclude, I would like to tell you about an episode that Mrs Ida Loidl reports in her magazine, writing as follows:
«Father Domenico said that when you have a problem or need help, send me your guardian angel and say to him:" Angel of God, you are my keeper, go to Father Domenico and tell him in my name (and here you have to add your name) that I need this grace '».
When I, several years later, went to Manoppello, he saw me from afar and exclaimed: "Ah, here is the lady who sends me the angels around midnight". I was a bit 'dazed but he reassured me by adding: "Keep doing so, you are a mother and mothers have so many things to do!" -

And I assure you that he continues to do so today, if we send him our guardian angel. Try it!