Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Pope on the Shroud of Turin

POPE BENEDICT'S RECENT COMMENTS on the Shroud of Turin seem to go a long way toward accepting it as genuine and are being snapped up by the press. The Christian Science Monitor, which is usually more temperate, has the following exaggerated headline:
Pope Benedict says Shroud of Turin authentic burial robe of Jesus

Dismissing skeptics on Sunday when he visited the Shroud of Turin, Pope Benedict XVI said the burial cloth was none other than the same robe that once 'wrapped the remains' of Jesus Christ.
The article then goes on to tell what he actually said, which doesn't go quite that far:
By Nick Squires, Correspondent / May 3, 2010

In the centuries-old debate over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday diverged from his predecessor and weighed in favor of those who believe that the burial robe once cloaked Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict described the shroud, which allegedly bears blood stains and the facial imprint of a long-haired, bearded man, as an icon that once “wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”

While Pope Benedict joins the ranks of those who believe the sepia-colored shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, skeptics dismiss it as an ingenious medieval forgery that radiocarbon testing has dated about 800 years old.

The Vatican, which owns the linen cloth, has in the past tiptoed around the issue, describing it as a potent symbol of Jesus Christ’s suffering but never asserting outright its authenticity. Pope John Paul II visited the Shroud when it last went on public display in 1998, but he said the Catholic Church had "no specific competence” to pronounce on its authenticity and urged further scientific analysis.

Benedict was much less equivocal on Sunday when he prayed in front of the cloth at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Turin, Italy, saying afterwards in a “meditation” that it was "an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified, and injured on his right side."

Although Pope Benedict doesn't come out and say that it was the shroud of Jesus, he does seem to say (if he is being quoted correctly and in context - and the quote does appear in many other articles, e.g., here) that it actually does bear the imprint of a crucified man - by implication rejecting the prevailing theory that it is a medieval forgery. I remain very skeptical of its being an ancient artifact and I suspect that the Pope's comment may prove to be a nuisance to him and the Church. It wouldn't surprise me to see a backtracking "clarification" coming from the Vatican soon.

Background on the Turin exhibition here. For background on authenticity issues, click on the "recent discussion" links at that post and keep following the links back.