An "extraordinary exhibition" of holy relics including what is claimed to be the crown of thorns placed on Jesus Christ's head and a piece of the cross on which he was crucified opens this month in Nevada. The items may or may not be authentic, but nonetheless offer believers a "tangible link between heaven and earth," an official tells The Christian Post.
"The Relics of the Passion" is an exhibition organized and presented by La Virgen de Guadalupe Church in the Diocese of Las Vegas with the sponsorship of the Nevada Knights of Columbus and the Apostolate for Holy Relics. Proof of the authenticity of the relics is presented in documents signed by the Vatican itself.
"Each relic for public veneration has to have a document attesting to its authenticity. Relics that don't have documents can be used privately but not publicly. I have those documents in my custody," explained Thomas Serafin, Photographic Arts Manager at the Knights of Columbus, in a phone call with CP.
He noted that despite these documents, signed by the Vatican, it is hard to be absolutely certain if the relics are real or not – however, that uncertainty should not stop one from appreciating their value.
The relics, mostly small pieces embedded behind glass in the center of elaborate crosses of various sizes, are said to be from the cross on which Christ was crucified, the crown of thorns that was placed on his head, the column where he was tortured and beaten, and the table where he held the Last Supper before the Crucifixion. Other relics include what is said to be a piece of Christ's burial shroud and an effigy of the Veil of Veronica, which is believed to be imprinted with the likeness of Jesus' face.
"You can always question – 'Well, how do you know it's the true cross, how do you know it's from the crown of thrones?'" Serafin said, speaking of the relics' authenticity.
He explained, "What's required of me is to have these documents that say that the Vatican church say they are real. When you go some place and visit the Relics of the Passion for instance, you can never prove without a shadow of a doubt that something is exactly what it appears to be or what it claims to be – it depends on the intentions of the person going to see them.
"Maybe their intentions are to thank God for things in the past, or maybe their intentions are to offer a prayer of petition for things in the future – for others, it may be that they are not so much interested in the relics, but they love statuary, or they love choir music. These things bring you closer to God based on the fact that you are meditating on the mysteries of the Passion of Christ. It's kind of a tangible link between heaven and earth. It gives the people an opportunity to go and think and pray."
The relics will be on display first on Friday, March 16 at La Virgen de Guadalupe in Mesquite beginning at 3:00 pm. On March 17, the relics will remain at La Virgen de Guadalupe church and will be available for veneration from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and after the 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. masses. On Sunday, the items will be transferred over to St. John the Evangelist church in Logandale after the noon Mass.
The Knights of Columbus, which is part sponsor of the event, is the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization with over 1.8 million members and 14,000 councils in more than a dozen countries worldwide, while the Apostolate for Holy Relics is an official Catholic Apostolate established in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.