Pope Francis links Turin Shroud to Jesus in Easter message after tests show ancient cloth may NOT be medieval fake after all
- Pope Francis spoke ahead of televised broadcast displaying the shroud
- He said the shroud ‘invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth’
- Scientists recently dated the linen sheet to the time of Jesus’s life
PUBLISHED: 20:39 EST, 30 March 2013 | UPDATED: 20:40 EST, 30 March 2013
Pope Francis explicitly linked the Shroud of Turin to Jesus Christ in the same week forensic tests proved the cloth could have been produced during Christ’s lifetime.
In a special video message, the newly elected pontiff suggested that the ‘Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth’.
He was speaking as the mysterious imprinted cloth was displayed on television for only the second time.
Earlier this week, researchers dated a sample of the 14ft linen sheet to anything between 300BC to 400AD.
The Catholic Church has long avoided a definite approach regarding the cloth’s authenticity, but Francis’s language was provocative.
He said: ‘This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest.
‘And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.’
Speaking on Easter Saturday, a day before his first Holy Week address in front of thousands of Catholics in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the cloth ‘has the face of one who is dead’.
He added: ‘And yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us.’
Some commentators drew upon his use of the word ‘icon’, rather than ‘relic’, perhaps suggesting it plays a more symbolic role.
This was backed up by the pontiff’s evocative language.
He said the cloth, which is housed in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case within Turin Cathedral, ‘expresses a sovereign majesty’.
The 90-minute broadcast on state television network RAI was introduced by Pope Francis.
He said: ‘This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.’
The shroud, which is one of Catholicism’s most controversial relics, was once described by Pope John Paul II as ‘an icon of suffering in every age’.
The recent scientific findings are in a new book called Il Mistero della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud) which is published on Good Friday.
Hope for the faithful:The latest scientific results date the fibres from the cloth of the Turin Shroud to a period between 300BC to 400AD, which covers the years of Christ’s life
Many experts stand by carbon-dating of scraps of the cloth that date it to the 13th or 14th century.
However, some have suggested the dating results might have been skewed by contamination and have called for a larger sample to be analyzed.
The Vatican has tiptoed around just what the cloth is, calling it a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering while making no claim to its authenticity.
The cloth is only rarely open to the public. The last time was in 2010 when more than two million people lined up to pray before it and Pope Benedict XVI visited.
Describing the cloth, the Pope emeritus said: ‘This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.’
The latest display coincided with Holy Saturday, when Catholics mark the period between Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
A few hundred people, many in wheelchairs, were invited inside the cathedral for the service, which was presided over by Turin’s archbishop.
It was only the second time the shroud has gone on display specifically for a TV audience; the first was in 1973 at the request of Pope Paul VI, the Vatican said.
THE POPE’S COMMENTS IN FULL
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who, through modern technology, offers us this possibility.
Even if it takes place in this way, we do not merely “look”, but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze. I would go further: we are in fact looked upon upon ourselves.
This face has eyes that are closed, it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us.
How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth.
This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.
Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart. In silence, let us listen to what he has to say to us from beyond death itself.By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power.
This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.
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.
So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make my own the prayer which Saint Francis of Assisi prayed before the Crucifix:
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the shadows of my heart, and grant me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may accomplish your holy and true command.