The Turin Shroud is to shown on television for the first time in 40 years on Easter Sunday amid new claims that the cloth does date back to the time that Jesus walked the earth.
Considered by Catholics to be the shroud that Jesus was buried in after his crucifixion, negatives of the four meter long linen cloth reveal an image of a bearded man with nailed-pierced hands and feet.
While scientists have never been able to explain how the transfer of the image occurred, a new study by a Italy’s Padua University claims to refute the widely held belief that tests proved the cloth was nothing more than a clever hoax.
There have been several attempts to time-date the cloth. In 1988, scientific reported that tests placed the shroud in the Middle Ages between A.D. 1260 aend A.D. 1390.
However, the team at Padua University now say the shroud dates between 280 B.C. and A.D. 220, putting it much closer to the time that Christians believe Jesus was alive.
The new tests — led by Giulio Fanti, an associate professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University — analyzed fibers from the shroud with infrared lights, measuring radiation intensity through wavelengths.
Fanti says the carbon-14 dating used in the milestone 1988 study was “not statistically reliable,” and the esults of the Padau tests have been published in a new new book, Il Mistero della Sindone, (The Mystery of the Shroud) written by him and journalist Saverio Gaeta.
Although the Vatican has never given an opinion on the Shroud’s authenticity, previous pope Benedict XVI described it as “a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing,” when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In the upcoming television airing, the former pope will end the 90 minutes Rai broadcast, in what’s being billed as his final parting gift to the 1.2 million strong Roman Catholic church. The program will take place at the Turin cathedral and be introduced by the newly anointed Pope Francis.
“It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help hope never to be lost,” said the archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosiglia.
The event has been timed to mark the 40th anniversary of the Turin shroud’s last appearance on TV — under the reign of Pope Paul VI in 1973 — and to mark the first celebration of Easter with Pope Francis at the helm of the church.
The Turin Shroud was saved from a fire in April 1997 and is being kept in Italy’s Turin Cathedral in a special climate-controlled casket.
For those interested in seeing the newly evaluated shroud, a new app launched Friday — “Shroud 2.0 — will enable smartphone and tablet users to freely view high-resolution images of the fabled cloth in all its much debated glory.