For only the fourth time in one hundred years, the Holy Tunic of Christ has gone on public display in the Cathedral of Trier in Germany, which could draw as many as half a million pilgrims.
“This relic makes present the final dramatic moments of the earthly life of Jesus: His death on the cross,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier.
The Pope’s special envoy, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, presided over an April 13 ceremony opening the one-month exhibition.
The relic, also known as the Holy Robe, is said to be the “seamless garment” worn by Jesus Christ during his Passion. According to tradition, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, brought the Holy Tunic to Trier when it was the capital of ancient Gaul.
It was first put on public exposition in the year 1512. This year it will be exposed from April 13 to May 13.
Pope Benedict’s message reflected on the relic’s history and the role of Jesus’ tunic in the Gospels, especially in the Gospel of John. The Pope said that John’s description of the tunic as “seamless, woven in one piece from the top down” makes Jesus’ crucifixion “explicit” and helps Christians “look with faith on the mystery of salvation.”
In the Gospel account, Roman soldiers take the tunic but they cast lots for it because they did not want to divide it.
The Church Fathers saw in this the “the unity of the Church” and its “unique and indivisible community,” Pope Benedict explained.
In his message to Bishop Ackermann, the Pope imparted his apostolic blessing and invoked the pilgrimage’s motto, “Restore Unity to that which is divided.”
“We do not want to remain trapped in isolation. We desire to call upon the Lord to guide us in the common journey of faith, and to make the content of the faith to live again,” he said.
The tunic last went on display in 1996, it attracted 700,000 visitors.