TURIN, Italy (AP) — Turin's archbishop says interest in the Shroud of Turin is so keen that many pilgrims who already saw the burial cloth some believe covered Jesus are returning to see the linen again when it goes back on display starting Sunday.
The 4.3-meter-long (14-foot) cloth will be displayed April 19-June 24. Pope Francis will view it on June 21 on an overnight trip to the Turin area, which will include private time with relatives.
Public viewings of the cloth were last held in 2010.
"Many pilgrims who had already seen the shroud in past showings come back, even though some saw it just five years ago," Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia said on Saturday.
"That's not a long time. And yet many of the bookings we have are people who have already seen the shroud. That means there is a fundamental need in people's hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it," the prelate told reporters.
Reservations are mandatory but free of charge to see the shroud, displayed in a climate-controlled case, in Turin's cathedral. Turin's mayor said recently that more that 1 million people had made reservations. In 2010, some 2.5 million people came, according to organizers of the display.
The pope's predecessor, Benedict XVI, has described the cloth as an icon "written with the blood" of a crucified man. Benedict said there was "full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus."
When Pope John Paul II saw the shroud in 1998, he said the mystery forces questions about faith and sciences and whether it really was Jesus' burial linen. He urged continuous study.
Skeptics say the linen bearing the figure of a crucified man is a medieval forgery.
Nosiglia said people of all faiths will come to see the shroud, not just Christians. "Even non-believers will come. It's an occasion that brings everybody together and aims to give a precise response to the violence in this world. It tells us that the way to build a fairer world is not violence, but love," he said.