(CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI visited the iconic Shroud of Turin on Sunday, kneeling and praying before Christianity's most famous relic, which went on display last month for the first time in 10 years.
Before visiting the shroud -- believed by some Christians to be Jesus Christ's burial cloth -- the pope conducted an open-air mass before thousands who gathered in Turin's St. Charles Square.
In his homily, Benedict told congregants never to lose the hope that comes "from the Risen Christ, from the victory of God over sin and death," the Catholic News Agency quoted him as saying.
He said that keeping up that hope is the message of the Shroud of Turin, in which disciples see their sufferings "mirrored" in the suffering of Christ, CNA reported.
The shroud, a centuries-old linen cloth, went on public display at the Turin Cathedral on April 10 for the first time since undergoing a major restoration in 2002. It was last on display in 2000.
The shroud was restored to remove a patchwork repair done by 16th-century nuns after the cloth was damaged in a fire.
In addition to the pope, 2 million people are expected to visit the shroud while on its current six-week display.
Many scholars contest the shroud's authenticity, saying it dates to the Middle Ages, when purported biblical relics -- like splinters from Jesus' cross -- surfaced across Europe.
"The shroud owner said it in 1355 ... the local bishop said it was a forgery and even the pope of that time said it was a fake," said Antonio Lombatti, a church historian.
The Catholic Church's official position regarding the shroud is that it's an important tool for faith regardless of its authenticity.