Far into the night, people patiently waited their chance to come physically close to Jesus Christ. Fragments from the days of Christ’s life were there before their eyes. Some kneeled, some chanted intense prayers, some picked up the small reliquaries containing pieces of Christian history and looked with awe and curiosity.
The nine-church Arizona tour of the "Relics of the Passion" was making its second stop Thursday night at St. Timothy Catholic Community in Mesa, its only East Valley visit. Viewers were given 10 hours — 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. — to see the 10 items up close.
The most popular item was the black nail that believers could pick up and wrap their hands around. It contains filings the Roman Catholic Church says were taken from an actual nail that held Christ on the cross.
The Arizona State Council of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization, had four days to put on a display of the items that also include a fragment from the Crown of Thorns, a piece of the True Cross on which Christ died, a relic of the burial shroud, something from the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus gath- ered with his disciples before his arrest, a fragment from the Upper Room where the Last Supper was served and a fragment of the column where Christ was flogged after his arrest. The items are owned by the Apostolate for Holy Relics in Los Angeles and will travel to Denver on Sunday.
Linda Senteno of Tempe walked out of St. Timothy about 9:15 p.m. She had waited in line since the exhibit opened and spent a couple minutes with the exhibit, holding the relics and looking closely.
They weren’t quite what she expected, however.
"They were just so tiny," she said. "Real, real small."
Despite the size, she was still impressed.
"I’ll probably never get another chance to see them," Senteno said.
The line at St. Timothy wrapped around the inside of the sanctuary about 9 p.m. as nearly 200 people waited. Some sat in the sanctuary seats and watched the line from afar. Some prayed.
Joyce Debolt of Chandler didn’t want to wait for hours. She left the church after realizing it could take a long time, opting to come back at 2 a.m.
"It’s just too long a line and right now there isn’t much order," Debolt said. She didn’t intend to miss the relics, though.
"It is my faith," she said.
At the Valley’s first stop, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Phoenix, church gradeschool students were the first to pass by the display.
"It was really cool because I got butterflies when I looked at it," said 12-year-
old Jordana Ricciteli. "I didn’t really know what it would be like."
In a morning Mass, the Rev. Joshua Alvero told the congregation, "We are privileged to be able to have the relics of Christ’s passion because not too many churches are visited by them."
The items are part of 1,200 sacred relics in the apostolate’s care and most were previously kept in a Roman Catholic basilica in Rome. Most were transported from Jerusalem to Rome in the 4th century, and the church says its research confirms authenticity.
At 6 a.m. today, the display moves to St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Goodyear, where it will be until about 3:30 p.m. It will be moved to Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix, — where Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will lead a Mass at 5:30 p.m.— and will remain until 4 a.m. Saturday. Then it will go to Nogales, Green Valley and Tucson for stops at five churches. Viewing will close 6 p.m. Sunday in Tucson.