The Holy Shroud Exhibition is now on display from 10 April to 23 May 2010. The shroud is believed by many, but disputed by others, as the burial cloth of Christ which bears his image. The last time the shroud was on display was in the year 2000 for the Year of Jubilee. For the city of Torino, Italy and for that, the world, this is a BIG deal. It is estimated that there will be 2.5 million pilgrims coming to view the shroud in the course of the next six weeks. Yesterday, we contributed to those numbers, but would classify our visit as a cultural pilgrimage instead of religious. According to the Archbishop of Turin, "The Holy Shroud Exhibition is a spiritual and religious event, it is neither touristic nor commercial." And from our impressions and observations the majority of the crowd would agree with him.
We made a last minute decision to go yesterday after picking up the kids from school around 12:30. We reserved a time slot for 2:00 on the internet and off we went during a time when the number of visitors was lower. All I can say is, I would not like to see what the high-traffic times are like! We entered the line at the back of the palace gardens and knowing our whereabouts in relation to the church, set in for a long wait. The line was immense and it took us 1.5 hours to complete our wait! Glad we brought the large stroller and lots of snacks. And it was a super smart decision in the end to go during Luca's nap time as it made for a more mellow Luca, who then tolerated his confinement to the stroller much better than usual. As we neared the church there was this increasing heavy silence in the air. I've never been in a crowd so quiet. Another reason to be thankful that Luca didn't reach a meltdown point!
We watched a 3-minute video pointing out the markings on the shroud, were given a card with the facial image on the front and a prayer on the back to pray upon viewing the shroud. Having a stroller allowed us to be in the front row for viewing. The cloth was impressive but almost had a photographic look to it with all the lighting on it. While taking in our brief moments of observation someone read a prayer through the sound system. They said no flash photography allowed but still flashes were going off in the crowd. The pictures we have are from Jonathan's iPhone as it was more discreet to use and without flash. If I would have known that video recording was okay, I totally would have brought my camcorder. Oh well, maybe next time in another ten years.
Due to all of the attention being placed on the shroud, we have decided to capitalize on this opportunity. We have printed 5,000 cards with a picture of the shroud and the verse "Why do you seek for the living among the dead?" on the front, with our contact information on the back. Those who receive the cards can request a free booklet about the shroud which also contains a clear presentation of the gospel. We have just begun distributing these cards in Caselle and we are hoping to reach the majority, if not all, of the homes.
Distribution began yesterday by two women in our group and with several hours of walking got 500 cards out yesterday. More are going out today and over the weekend as we have small groups from our Caselle church helping as they can. Instead of our ladies Bible study time on Monday, we will distribute cards in Caselle as we can see it will take hours of work to get these 5,000 cards out. Please pray for us as we distribute these cards. Pray that the Lord would put them into the hands of people who are truly seeking. Pray that we may be able to make many new contacts and that many new opportunities to share the gospel will result.