The residents of the Italian city of Andria keep a great treasure in their cathedral: the relic of a thorn from the crown of thorns of Christ. In the year when Good Friday falls on March 25th, that is, on the Feast of the Annunciation, the thorn miraculously blossoms. It was no different in 2016.
Like flower buds
On March 25, 2016, from the early hours of the morning, the faithful flocked to the cathedral in which the holy relic had been put on display for public veneration. Many held the memories of the previous miracle 11 years earlier. Then, on Good Friday 2005, they beheld an extraordinary sight: on the thorn, characterized by a smooth surface and a whitish color, protuberances of an intensely red color appeared. After a short while, the color disappeared, as did the protuberance itself, only to reappear after a while but ruby-red this time. The miracle in the cathedral lasted for less than an hour and reminded witnesses of blossoming flower buds although it was also compared to a volcanic eruption. The occurrence took place in the evening at the time when a Way of the Cross procession was moving through the streets of the city. The appearance of protuberances and the change of the relic’s color corresponded to the successive stations of the Lord’s Passion, contemplated by procession participants. At 9:15 p.m., when the procession was over, the thorn returned to its natural state. It was to remain in it until last year.
Time of anticipation
However, before the much-awaited day of March 25, 2016, arrived, the then bishop of Andria, Rafaele Calabro, resolved to prepare his flock for the event. It was his desire to strengthen the faith and enliven the Christian witness of his diocesan flock through more devout prayer, reflection and preaching. With these purposes in mind, exactly one year before the miracle, Pope Francis, on Bishop Calabro’s request, announced a Jubilee Year of the Holy Thorn for Andria under the slogan: “Ecce Homo. Christ is the source and model of new humanity.”
In parallel with these spiritual efforts, others were undertaken aimed at verifying the credibility of the miracle in the future. A Special Diocesan Commission for the Holy Thorn was appointed, consisting of almost twenty members – both spiritual and secular – headed by Fr. Gianni Massaro. Members of the Commission (many of whom were doctors) examined the relic three times: on January 11, February 13, March 21, 2016. On each occasion, it was noted that the thorn showed no physical changes. The date of the next verification was chosen – the day of the expected miracle, on March 25, 2016.