Thousands have gathered in Trier, Germany, to see a relic that has been venerated for 500 years. The tunic, long said to have been worn by Jesus Christ before his crucifixion, is on show for the first time in 16 years.
Trier Cathedral opened its doors to thousands of pilgrims on Friday for the first of 30 days during which they will be able to view the "Holy Robe." The event began with a religious service at the cathedral and the nearby Basilica of Our Lady, which was attended by 1,500 people, including Catholic and political dignitaries from Germany and abroad.
Papal envoy Cardinal Marc Ouellet said in a sermon that pilgrimages to the relic would help restore faith, "at a time when the church, not only in Germany, is disoriented by far-reaching crises."
The tunic was displayed in a shrine made of wood and glass.
Though the church long maintained it had been worn by Jesus before his crucifixion, church leaders no longer make that claim. Instead, they say, the garment is holy because it has been venerated for 500 years now. It was shown for the first time at Trier Cathedral in 1512.
Trier's diocese was reportedly spending 3.5 million euros on the month-long event. Church authorities are hopeful that half a million people will come to view the garment.
"Those who come to Trier for the 'Holy Robe Pilgrimage,' make a pilgrimage to Jesus Christ," Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann said in a statement possibly meant to attract Protestants, who don't revere relics.
Victims of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions run by the Trier diocese held a demonstration in front of the cathedral before the Mass.
ncy/msh (dpa, epd, KNA)