Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Shroud of Turin next year, despite the presence of research confirming that the Catholic artifact may have been a 14th century fraud and does not actually relate to the death of Jesus Christ.
According to Catholic Herald, Pope Francis expressed his excitement over his scheduled visit to the Turin cathedral in Northern Italy, where the famed religious item is held. The shroud, rarely seen in public, will be displayed for the first time in many years during the Pope’s visit. Its display will also be in celebration of the 200th birthday of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and a prominent Italian Catholic figure.
Archbishop Cesare Asiglia, custodian of the shroud, described the long tradition of papal visits to the Catholic artifact. Pope Benedict visited the shroud in 2010, and so did John Paul II in 1998, 1980, and 1978.
“The Pope comes as a pilgrim of faith and of love. Like his predecessors, Pope Francis, too, confirms that devotion to the shroud that millions and millions of pilgrims recognize as a sign of the mystery of the passion and death of the Lord, thereby renewing faith in him and finding strength in that hope that springs from the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.”
Catholic tradition describes the Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot by 14-foot linen cloth, as the burial shroud of Jesus. Although the Catholic Church hasn’t officially released a statement regarding the authenticity of the shroud, Pope Francis’ visit and veneration of the shroud has been interpreted by some as an act of divine recognition of the shroud.
A few people from both religious and secular sectors have expressed dismay over Pope Francis’ planned visit to the shroud. Research dating back to the 80s has found evidence that the Shroud of Turin may have been a product of a 14th century forgery. In 1988, independent carbon-dating analyses by the University of Zurich, University of Oxford and University of Arizona discovered the age of origin of the shroud, which played at a close range of around 1260 to 1390 — a millennium away from the supposed year of Jesus’ death.
Religious scholars have also doubted the authenticity of the shroud. Some cited the Gospel of John as evidence that refutes the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Scholars say that the Gospel of John described Jesus’ face as being covered in multiple napkins or cloths during his death, and not just a single shroud. The Shroud of Turin also does not contain traces of burial spices, something that was reportedly placed around the body of Jesus during his death.
[Images from Jim Linwood/Flickr]