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ROME - As Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended Italy's lockdown until May 3, a special online exhibition of the Shroud of Turin is taking place on Holy Saturday to allow the faithful to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
A prayer service in front of the shroud will be live-streamed, along with pictures of the what Christians believe was Jesus' burial cloth.
After more than a month in lockdown and during the most surreal Holy Week in their lives, Italians are searching for hope and signs that the house arrest everyone is enduring will end soon. Archbishop of Turin Cesare Nosiglia said he has received thousands of messages from the elderly, adults and young people, healthy and sick, asking him at this time of grave difficulty and during Holy Week to be allowed to pray in front of the shroud.
Nosiglia responded to those calls and agreed to lead a liturgy of prayer and contemplation of what is considered Christianity's most sacred relic during the afternoon of Holy Saturday.
The archbishop said that, thanks to television and social media, this moment of contemplation will make available to everyone, all over the world, the image of the shroud, which, he said, recalls the passion and death of Jesus, but which also opens people's hearts to faith in his resurrection.
Pope Francis said he deeply appreciated the decision to have an online exhibition of the shroud.
People forced to stay at home will be able to watch the livestreamed prayer service along with live images of the shroud.
On Saturday, the pope will hold an Easter Vigil inside Saint Peter's Basilica. All of his services during Holy Week have been conducted without public attendance due to the pandemic. On Friday, presided over a late-night Way of the Cross service, which commemorates the final hours of Jesus' life, in Saint Peter's Square, after canceling the customary candle-lit procession at Rome's ancient Colosseum, normally attended by tens of thousands.
On Sunday, Francis will celebrate Easter Sunday mass and deliver his Urbi et Orbi message and blessing to the city of Rome and to the world.