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The Shroud of Turin

F ollowing the most recent popes, let us contemplate the Saint shroud, the Shroud of Turin. Witness of the death and the resurrection, this surprising shroud helps walk in hope, text of Father Pierre Dumoulin, Vicar in the Parish of Gémenos, France

Saint Suaire

"In Antiquity the shroud (Latin sudarium , the cloth to wipe the sweat of the face), is the linen cloth recovering the face of the body, and not the whole shroud. The Holy Shroud is the linen cloth which covered Jesus of Nazareth's face and at the same time, the piece of linen cloth that wrapped the body of Jesus before placing it in a new tomb after his death- as it was customary in the Hebrew tradition". Wikipedia, The Holy Shroud.

A witness of the love of Christ

It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history

Many scientific studies of the shroud were taken however these were all indirect studies without access to the shroud itself. Some scholars wrote the shroud was "a forgery" and that it wasn't blood but paint pigments that formed the image.
However after years direct examination of the shroud was undertaken by a scientific team. In 1978 the results were that the stains were from human blood without doubt.

Scientists from NASA, laboratories from the American Army, used image analysis technologies developed in aerospace science for analyzing the images of the Shroud. These scientists and over thirty others formed the Shroud of Turin Research Project( STURP). Other tests were undertaken in 1983, 1998 and 2000. More recently in 2013 a new study led by a team of scientists from the University of Padova establishes that the fibers of the shroud are dated 200 BC -Ist century AD ( speaking against a former radiocarbon dating result).

Variations in radiocarbon dating results in a sample of the cloth can occur in many hypotheses. Scientists stated that the weaving pattern is consistent with 1st century design, and that pollens were from Palestina, that the dirt found was from Jerusalem area. The cloth wrapped a corpse, Roman coins had been put on his eyes etc.
The Shroud shows the image of a man who was tortured, a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed at the extremities -crucified- and whose right side was pierced after dying. His nose was broken, his beard was torn off, his back was plowed, a cross was placed on his shoulder .

Conclusions of those studies are clear,

  • The image on the shroud is the image of a man who was crucified. It isn't a painting produced by some human artistry .
  • The image on the shroud is authentic, anatomically correct and consistent with crucifixion.
  • Different studies correspond in every way to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus: the cloth is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus. Even if we only use the forensic examinations of the wounds, only Christ was whipped, wounded around the head by a crown of thorns, his back shows wounds, the right side is pierced and nailed at the extremities, he was buried shortly after crucifixion. All these details are a "mirror of Gospel".
  • The conservation of this linen cloth is also compatible with the historic path followed by the Turin Shroud during its journey from the Near East.
  • The nature of the image and blood and how it was fixed on the cloth remain puzzling.

The Shroud shows with an astonishing accuracy the Passion of Christ. All the details of Gospels are present in the image, mainly those of the Gospel of St.John, and evidence correlates the Gospel narrative with such realism that there is no doubt as for the perfection of the gift of self that Jesus offered.

All the wounds are visible yet, "It is by his wounds that we are healed" (1P 2,24). By seeing the shroud, we have in our heart the words of Isaiah "his appearance was no longer that of a man, and his appearance was no longer that of the sons of Adam."

" (Is 52,14) "; he had neither appearance, nor bearing as we noticed, nor appearance as we sought it. He was despised, laid aside by men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, like the one before whom his face is hidden; yes, despised, we do not estimate it at all. " (Is 53,2-3).
The Shroud gives us a mirror of the Passion. A bit like we go to Palestine to see the places where Christ lived,we contemplate the shroud because it is an image of God's love."What I live today in the flesh, I live in faith to the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."

The Shroud is as a last message of love left to the men by the one who showed the " greatest love " by giving " his life for those who he loves " (Jn 15,13).
"...For the believer, what counts above all is that the Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. In fact, if we reflect on the sacred Linen, we cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus' passion and death, that every sensitive person feels inwardly touched and moved at beholding it." (POPE JOHN PAUL II)

For a person with a medical training the description of the wounds of the Crucified is unspeakable. We can feel all He suffered. But the Holy Shroud acts as a photographic document, with both a "positive" and a "negative' the sign of a never ending hope and the negative of love that is a dark mistery.

"This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks. It is itself a word we can hear in the silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced." (Pope Benedict XVI , 2010)

" The Shroud is an image of silence. There is a tragic silence of incommunicability, which finds its greatest expression in death, and there is the silence of fruitfulness, which belongs to whoever refrains from being heard outwardly in order to delve to the roots of truth and life. The Shroud expresses not only the silence of death but also the courageous and fruitful silence of triumph over the transitory, through total immersion in God's eternal present. " (Pope John Paul 1998)

A witness of the resurrection of Christ

Scientists have not yet explained how front and back images of a crucified man came to be on the cloth.What happened to imprint a photographic negative image on the Shroud? Many believe it to be caused by radiation similar to atomic radiation. But how could it be possible to create images that match the chemistry, peculiar superficiality and profoundly mysterious three-dimensional information content of the images on the Shroud? No one has created such images .

Resurrection of Christ is a powerful fountain of life. The miracle of Easter is not so much the one of a revivification coming from the outside that the return to life of a dead man by himself. How the one who is not any more could be brought back to life, if not a God? The Shroud also tells us that the Resurrection, the metamorphosis of light, overcomes It space and time. It invites modern man to question himself about the mystery of resurrection and "leads us to discover the mystery of suffering, which, sanctified by Christ's sacrifice, achieves salvation for all humanity. Death is not the ultimate goal of human existence."

"It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things." ( Pope Francis, 2013)

"...may we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, may we carry in our hearts this word of love and praise God with a life full of faith, hope and charity." (Pope Benedict XVI)

Père Pierre Dumoulin, mars 2018