The Face of God
[is] a book by the German journalist and historian Paul Badde
that recounts his fascinating quest to uncover the truth behind the Holy Face of Manoppello.
He describes it as a kind of "logbook of the discovery from the beginning" -- a vivid and engaging account of how he and a small number of experts came to "rediscover" the Holy Face as the authentic cloth allegedly found in Christ's empty tomb by the apostles Peter and John.
Exhibited in a church in Manoppello, a small town in Italy's Abruzzo region, it bears the mysterious image of a man's face on byssus cloth, or sea silk -- a fabric so thin and delicate that it's impossible to paint on. Yet the image of a bearded, almost dreamy face, marked by wounds, is clearly visible from both the front and back. It possesses a luminous quality and an expression that changes depending on the direction of the light. It also has the exact same dimensions as the face imprinted on the Shroud of Turin.
It's here where the story becomes most fascinating. The discoverers of the Holy Face claim the reason why Peter and John became convinced of the Resurrection was because Peter saw the Holy Shroud (among other cloths, collectively called "othonia" by John) on a raised area on the right side of the tomb. "Separate from these cloths," and therefore probably on the lower, left side of the tomb, was what John called the "soudarion" -- the thin veil with the Holy Face.
For this reason, he won't accept talk of an empty tomb -- even from the Holy Father. After the Pope referred to it as such in Jerusalem last year, Badde wrote to him, stressing that John never spoke of an empty tomb because there were items in it.
Naturally, he stands fully behind its claims to authenticity. "I am completely convinced," he says, "For me it's an enormous confirmation of the truth of Jesus and the teaching of the Church." He also sees it as a bridge between Eastern and Western Christianity (Manoppello is located close to Pescara harbor that looks toward Greece) and therefore of ecumenical importance. And he views its rediscovery as providential for modern times. "It really is sensational, especially for the New Evangelization," he says. "Pilgrims will now begin to discover it."
Is there any Church tradition, in East or West, that talks about this Holy Face?