Is there an image of Jesus at the Vatican?

Is the image of Manoppello really an authentic one of Jesus?

Many believe so; many have doubts. It's a relic kept in that Italian city. According to local tradition, an anonymous pilgrim arrived in Manoppello (or Manopelo) in 1508 with the cloth wrapped in a package. The pilgrim gave the package to a doctor sitting on a bench in front of the church, and the doctor then unwrapped the package, discovering the veil. He immediately left the church to find the man who had given it to him but could not trace the fellow.

There are rumors that the Pope may soon be visiting there. The personal secretary to Benedict XVI recently stopped for his visit, and Benedict himself had been there, sparking interest in the purported relic. There are other "veils" elsewhere. There is even a website called "The Manoppello Hoax" (though we need not be so harsh; we see merit in all such focuses of devotion).

But does it really look like the Shroud?

And if it's from Veronica's veil, how about the image kept at the Vatican and said to be the same veil?

Notes a viewer, "Per the veil of Manopello, I have held reservations to its authenticity only because there is a documented, notarized, and approved miracle involving the Veil of Veronica in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. How can the Veil be in Manopello and St. Peter's at the same time? I have a copy of the English translation of this event. This copy gives the names of the priests and laity who testified to seeing the miracle of Our Lord's Face becoming alive with a sorrowful image on the Veil itself."

This is very interesting. We'd not heard about the reported miracle before. It turns out that the image at the Vatican was revered in the Middle Ages. This version, says an online encyclopedia, is stored in the chapel that lies behind the balcony in the southwest pier supporting the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. "Very few inspections are recorded in modern times and there are no detailed photographs," it is noted. "The most detailed recorded inspection of the twentieth century occurred in 1907 when Jesuit art historian Joseph Wilpert was allowed to remove two plates of glass to inspect the image. He commented that he saw only 'a square piece of light colored material, somewhat faded through age, which bears two faint rust-brown stains, connected one to the other.' Nevertheless, the face is still displayed each year on the occasion of the fifth Sunday of Lent, Passion Sunday. The blessing takes place after the traditional Vespers at five p.m. There is a short procession within the basilica, accompanied by the Roman litany. A bell rings and three canons carry the heavy frame out on the balcony above the statue of St. Veronica holding the veil. From this limited view no image is discernible and it is only possible to see the shape of the inner frame."

So, allegedly, it's a piece of cloth, perhaps the Veil, but with no real visible image. But miracles back it up.

Notes a website called Vultus, "It was customary on the feast of the Epiphany to expose for the veneration of the faithful the 'Veronica's Veil' preserved with other sacred relics in the Vatican Basilica. The 'Veil' was darkened by age, and the features of Our Lord's sacred countenance were no longer visible. On the third day of the exposition of the relic [in 1849], before the eyes of numerous witnesses, the image of the Holy Face took on vivid colors and, in the midst of an unearthly light, became clearly visible, and this for three hours. The expression on the Holy Face was one of profound sorrow and of love. Alerted to the prodigy, the Canons of Saint Peter's ordered the bells rung, summoning the faithful to see the miraculous sign. A Notary Apostolic was called to take the depositions of the eyewitnesses; he drew up a document attesting to the miracle, which was then placed in the archives of the Vatican Basilica."

That's fascinating and it may ring truer than the Manoppello image, which seems more like a painting than does the Shroud -- which we have no doubt is completely authentic (see Ian Wilson The Shroud of Turin). But let us cherish all such relics.

As is pointed out, once news of the miracle spread, faithful from all sides requested reproductions of the Sacred Countenance of Our Lord "as seen on the Holy Veil of Saint Peter's Basilica." A number of these were printed on silk and linen, marked with a red wax seal of authenticity, and distributed from Rome. It so happens that several of the reproductions were given to Benedictine nuns in Arras, France, who sent a number of them to the Carmel of Tours. On Palm Sunday 1851 -- two years now after the Vatican miracle -- the superior at Carmel presented two of the reproductions to a local lawyer, Monsieur Leon Papin-Dupont. He had them framed  and placed one in his room to the left of the chimney, with a votive lamp lit in front of it. Another reached the Carmel of Lisieux, where it had a great influence on Saint Therese the Little Flower, who became Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

 But let's get back to Monsieur Dupont. He often had visitors to his home -- who were received in that room -- pray before the reproduction. He also dispensed water from the apparition site of LaSalette.

On Holy Saturday the first year he displayed it, a woman with an eye affliction came to see him on business and when she complained of her eye trouble Dupont suggested that she put a little oil from the lamp on her eyes, which she did. Her eyes suddenly stopped hurting.

"From that day forward," notes Vultus, "the life of Monsieur Dupont became an uninterrupted flow of miracles, healings, and graces attributed to the Holy Face of Jesus, and to the pious use of the oil that burned in the lamp before it." 

By the end of Holy Week twenty or so were similarly relieved of physical malady.

A movement of devotion to the Holy Face was born. And: prodigies multiplied, including healings from cancers, ulcers, deafness, sprains, and cataracts. By 1952 Dupont had distributed more than 8,000 vials of oil from that lamp! Crowds gathered at his door. Devotion was capped by a good Confession and Communion.

The room is still there, transformed into an Oratory at 8 rue Bernard Palissy in Tours, France. We will endeavor to visit there some day soon!

To see the Face of Christ is to know His Name, and vice versa. When we note the suffering and sorrow in others, we know His Face best. "One is free in one's own home," Dupont used to tell visitors. "In my home, after treating of the affair of which one came, one must either leave or speak of the things of God."

[resources: Devotion to the Holy Face and The God of Healing]