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UNIT 3 CHAPTER 9<br />

Science and the<br />

Shroud of Turin<br />


Chapter 9 Overview<br />

The Shroud of Turin is a burial cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. This image matches perfectly<br />

the description of the wounds Christ suffered during His Crucifixion. Modern science has shown the image<br />

to be anatomically accurate and that it could not have been produced by any kind of paint, dye, chemical,<br />

vapor, or scorching. Recent tests have dated the shroud to the time of Christ and have placed its origin near<br />

the Sea of Galilee. All the evidence suggest that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ mentioned in<br />

the Gospels and that it bears a miraculous image of the moment of Jesus’ Resurrection. This precious relic is<br />

powerful testimony to our faith in Christ, the historicity of His Resurrection, and His claims to be divine.<br />

In this chapter you will learn that …<br />

■ The Shroud of Turin contains a miraculous image of a crucified man that all evidence suggests is Jesus<br />

Christ.<br />

■ The shroud has undergone numerous scientific investigations over the years that all support that<br />

authenticity of the shroud and its image.<br />

■ The Shroud of Turin and the Facecloth of Oviedo share numerous details that likely indicate they both<br />

were burial cloths of the same person.<br />

■ The empirical evidence presented by the shroud strongly corroborates the accuracy of the Gospel<br />

accounts of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection.<br />

Bible Basics<br />

And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him<br />

down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and<br />

laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of<br />

the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door<br />

of the tomb.<br />

—Mark 15:46<br />

Connections to the Catechism<br />

■ CCC 606–630<br />

■ CCC 638–640<br />

■ CCC 651–655<br />

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and<br />

went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths<br />

lying, and the napkin, which had been on his<br />

head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled<br />

up in a place by itself.<br />

— John 20:6–7<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />


Chapter 9<br />

Aa<br />


Shroud of Turin: Linen burial<br />

shroud bearing a perfect<br />

photographic negative of a<br />

crucified man, which scientific<br />

evidence strongly suggests is<br />

the burial shroud of Christ.<br />

The Shroud of Turin<br />

Before we finish this unit, there are some interesting pieces of important<br />

historical evidence of Christ’s divinity to look at — chief among these is<br />

the Shroud of Turin. This simple linen burial shroud, measuring roughly<br />

14 feet by 3 ½ feet, is by far the most scientifically tested relic ever, and<br />

for good reason. Despite having surfaced in 1349 — almost 500 years<br />

before the first photographic camera was invented — the shroud contains<br />

a perfect photographic negative of a crucified man. This image is<br />

executed in such accurate anatomical detail that modern medicine can<br />

diagnose many of the injuries by analyzing it. Most intriguing of all, scientific<br />

tests have revealed the image was not produced by any kind of<br />

paint, dye, chemical, vapor, or scorching.<br />

The numerous and wide-ranging tests on the shroud — anatomical<br />

details that correspond to the unusual set of injuries described in the<br />

Gospel, dating analyses that place it at the time of Christ, and a scientifically<br />

unique image suggestive of the Resurrection — strongly imply that<br />

it is the burial shroud of Christ. Let us now consider a brief survey of<br />

some of this evidence.<br />

168 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

Anatomically Accurate Blood Stains<br />

In addition to the image itself — which, as we noted, is anatomically<br />

perfect and a perfect photographic negative — there are several blood<br />

stains on the shroud as well. The image was formed after the blood<br />

stains congealed on the cloth, yet the image and blood stains, relative<br />

to one another, are anatomically correct. Further, the blood has been<br />

found to be a rare blood type: AB positive, with male DNA. A potential<br />

forger would have had to place all the blood stains on the cloth before<br />

there was an image on which to place them, an unlikely task, even<br />

before consideration of how the image itself was put on the shroud<br />

without any paints, dyes, chemicals, vapors, or scorching. Inasmuch<br />

as the blood is real, and the image was not produced by a medieval<br />

forger (a theory we will examine more closely later in this chapter), the<br />

shroud seems to have enveloped a real man who was crucified in a<br />

similar way to the unique crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. These similarities<br />

include the unusual combination of being crowned with thorns,<br />

being flogged, and being pierced in the side by a spear similar to a<br />

Roman pilum. The precise nature of the torments undergone by the<br />

man on the shroud is detailed by Dr. Pierre Barbet in his famous work,<br />

A Doctor at Calvary.<br />

The Shroud of Turin is a 3.5’<br />

x 14’ linen cloth that displays<br />

the blood-marked image of<br />

a man with the same wounds<br />

of torture and crucifixion as<br />

described in the Gospel of<br />

John.<br />

© Vernon Miller, 1978. No unauthorized reproduction of Material on other Websites is allowed without prior written<br />

permission from the shroudphotos.com copyright holder. Original photos are available for free at www.shroudphotos.com<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


Dating the Shroud<br />

Before detailing the many methods used to date the shroud, most of<br />

which have placed its origin to the time of Christ, we must address the<br />

one test whose findings do not match the rest. A Carbon-14 test done<br />

in 1988 by three different labs on a sample of the shroud placed the<br />

sample at 638 years old (to roughly 1350). As a rule, Carbon-14 is a reliable<br />

way of measuring the age of an artifact, but several factors potentially<br />

compromised the results of this particular test.<br />

First, the test consisted of only one sample. The usual protocol for<br />

a carbon-dating test would be to take samples from several parts of<br />

The negative of the image on<br />

the shroud reveals a positive<br />

image. Italian photographer<br />

Secondo Pia is said to have<br />

been so shocked to see the<br />

image that he almost dropped<br />

the photographic plate.<br />

Secondo Pia’s 1898 negative of the image on the<br />

Shroud of Turin. Image courtesy Alamy.<br />

170 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

the shroud; in this case, however, only one sample thread was taken and<br />

used by all three testing labs. One might wonder why it would matter if<br />

all the cloth is the same age anyway? As it happens, over the centuries,<br />

the shroud has been visibly patched with newer cloth in several places<br />

to cover large holes, so in this case it would matter a good deal.<br />

Second, the single 1988 sample was taken from a previously undiscovered<br />

repair patch on the shroud. Other repairs to the shroud were<br />

known, particularly ones that patched the shroud after it was in a fire<br />

in 1532. Later analysis would reveal several discrepancies between the<br />

1988 sample and the original portions of the shroud — the sample had<br />

cotton fibers and was dyed, most likely to make the fresh white patch<br />

blend in with the much older original shroud (which is linen, and not<br />

dyed). Since the sample was not part of the original material, the carbon-dating<br />

tells us when the shroud was patched, but nothing about<br />

when it was originally made.<br />

The 1532 fire that resulted in the known patches being added to<br />

repair the shroud is also significant, as it adds an unrelated, additional<br />

wrinkle to carbon-dating it. Since carbon-dating measures the amount<br />

of carbon left in a sample based on a known rate of decline, an event<br />

like a fire can contaminate any sample with added carbon and must be<br />

taken into account.<br />

Five New Scientific Dating Methods<br />

Dr. Liberato de Caro (specialist in coherent diffractive imaging chemistry<br />

at the Institute of Crystallography and the National Research<br />

Council of Italy), Dr. Raymond Rogers (an American chemist) and Dr.<br />

Giulio Fanti (Professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurement at<br />

the University of Padua’s Engineering Faculty) used five newer tests<br />

for dating ancient materials which are unrelated to Carbon 14 dating. In<br />

2022, De Caro and five other scientific colleagues published their results<br />

in the peer-reviewed journal Heritage.<br />

Dr. de Caro and his colleagues used a proven highly accurate testing<br />

method — wide angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) — to measure a sample<br />

of the shroud in 2022. They obtained a date of origin between AD<br />

55-74 (very close to the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection).<br />

This result is more precise than the four dating results below and corroborates<br />

those results which show the shroud’s date of origin to be in<br />

the first century.<br />

Dr. Rogers’ test results were reported in the peer-reviewed scientific<br />

journal Thermochimica Acta in 2005, and Fanti’s results in the<br />

Dr. de Caro and<br />

his colleagues<br />

used a proven<br />

highly accurate<br />

testing<br />

method — wide<br />

angle x-ray<br />

scattering<br />

(WAXS) — to<br />

measure a<br />

sample of the<br />

Shroud in 2022.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


(Bottom left) This image is of<br />

the man on the shroud’s back.<br />

At the lower back is a blood<br />

flow that extends from right to<br />

left. The rest of the marks on<br />

the back appear to be scourge<br />

marks caused by a flagrum.<br />

(A flagrum was made with<br />

cords or leather straps that<br />

had on their ends metal tips<br />

that were dumbbell in shape.<br />

These dumbbell shaped marks<br />

can be seen all over the back,<br />

chest and legs.)<br />

(Bottom right) Image of the<br />

face on the shroud created<br />

at Jet Propulsion Laboratory<br />

using a color technique (Fa)<br />

(notches in film)<br />

peer-reivewed Textile Research Journal in 2013. These tests show a<br />

strong likelihood that the shroud originated around the time of Jesus<br />

and that the 1988 Carbon 14 testing was significantly in error.<br />

Rogers used a vanillin test to measure the age of cellulose in ancient<br />

fabrics. Vanillin is an organic compound that — like carbon — decays with<br />

age. Linens from the Middle Ages typically retain around 37% of their<br />

vanillin when tested, while older artifacts from around the time of Christ,<br />

like the Dead Sea Scrolls, tend to have lost all of theirs. Comparison of<br />

the shroud’s results with these other linens established a possible age<br />

range of 1300 to 3,000 years old (its date of origin must be between<br />

1022 BC–AD 678).<br />

Dr. Fanti carried out three new dating tests on fibers from the<br />

shroud. First, Fanti conducted a Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy<br />

test of cellulose degradation. This test uses a specially transformed<br />

infrared light beam to excite the molecules of a material. The<br />

resulting reflections made it possible to evaluate the concentration<br />

of particular substances contained in the cellulose of the linen fibers.<br />

According to Fanti, because cellulose degrades over time, it is possible<br />

to determine a correlation with the age of the fabric. This test took<br />

© Vernon Miller, 1978. No unauthorized reproduction of Material on other Websites is allowed without prior written<br />

permission from the shroudphotos.com copyright holder. Original photos are available for free at www.shroudphotos.com.<br />

172 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

nine ancient textiles of different ages from Egypt, Israel, and Peru, as<br />

well as two modern fabrics, and tested them to establish the rate at<br />

which cellulose (yet another decaying compound) disappears over<br />

time. By applying this test to the shroud and comparing it with the<br />

other known samples, a date of origin range for the shroud was set at<br />

700 BC–AD 100.<br />

Next, Fanti conducted a Raman laser spectroscopy test for cellulose<br />

degradation. This test is similar to the previous one but used lasers<br />

instead of infrared light to probe the same samples and compare results.<br />

The date of origin range found in this test was similarly 700 BC–<br />

AD 300.<br />

Finally, Fanti employed mechanical tests of compressibility and<br />

breaking strength to compare the physical properties of the fibers of<br />

ancient fabrics, such as how much tensile strength individual fibers retain<br />

over time. By correlating the shroud fibers with other known ancient fabrics,<br />

the date of origin range produced by this test was AD 1–800.<br />

If we average the means of all these tests, the origin of the shroud<br />

might be placed at around 33 BC — very close to the time of Jesus.<br />

When this is combined with the wide angle x-ray scattering dating of AD<br />

55–AD 74, it is highly probable the Shroud’s origin must be in the first<br />

century AD with a very low margin of error.<br />

Other Indications of the Shroud’s Age<br />

In addition to the above dating methods that place the shroud in the<br />

first century, there are also circumstantial indications that point to the<br />

shroud’s origin during the age of Christ.<br />

Pollen Grains<br />

Max Frei, a Swiss botanist and criminologist, took dust samples from<br />

the shroud and identified 58 pollen grains by comparing them to pollen<br />

grains in botanical museums. Of the 58 pollen grains, 45 were from<br />

Israel (specifically from sediment deposits from 2,000 years ago near<br />

the Sea of Galilee), including 13 that are unique to that region. Six grains<br />

were from the Middle East (including two from Edessa, Turkey, and<br />

one grain unique to Istanbul/Constantinople), and the rest were from<br />

France (where the shroud surfaced in the Middle Ages) and Italy (where<br />

the shroud is now). The predominance of 2,000-year-old, Israel-based<br />

pollen not only strongly places the Shroud in the time and region of<br />

Christ, but also makes it even less likely it is the work of a medieval<br />

forger.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


Facecloth of Oviedo: The<br />

bloodstained cloth that,<br />

according to tradition, is<br />

mentioned in Scripture that<br />

was laid over the face of Christ<br />

after His Death. Analysis<br />

of blood, pollen, and other<br />

evidence on the facecloth<br />

strongly suggests that it<br />

touched the same face as the<br />

Shroud of Turin.<br />

Roman Coins on the Eyes of the Man in the Shroud<br />

Numismatists (coin specialists) have identified partial imprints of coins<br />

on the eyes of the man in the shroud. Overlaid photographs correlate<br />

these coins with a specific variant of a type of coin minted in Judea<br />

in AD 29 by Pontius Pilate. It is hard to conceive of a more pinpointed<br />

marker of date and time connecting the shroud to Christ.<br />

Similarities to the Facecloth of Oviedo<br />

The Shroud of Turin — also bears striking resemblance to another cloth<br />

known as the Facecloth of Oviedo (or the Sudarium Christi, Latin for<br />

“facecloth of Christ”). According to tradition, the Facecloth of Oviedo<br />

was the burial cloth mentioned in Scripture that was laid over the face<br />

of Christ after His Death (a typical part of Jewish burial custom). Unlike<br />

the Shroud of Turin, there is no facial image on the sudarium, but it<br />

is marked with blood stains consistent with those of a person brutally<br />

beaten and crucified. Many of the same pollens from ancient Israel<br />

found on the shroud have also been identified on the Facecloth of<br />

Oviedo, and analysis strongly suggests that it touched the same face<br />

as the Shroud. How do we know? When the bloodstains on the Oviedo<br />

cloth are superimposed over the bloodstains on the shroud, there are<br />

120 points of coincidence, strongly indicating that the face each cloth<br />

touched had an identical pattern of injuries and blood flow. Even more,<br />

the blood type of the blood stains on the facecloth match that of the<br />

shroud: AB positive. Why are these facts significant for dating the<br />

shroud? The Facecloth of Oviedo has a continuous recorded history<br />

traceable to the year AD 616 (compared to the Shroud’s documented<br />

history from 1349). Therefore, if the two cloths touched the same face,<br />

it establishes that the shroud must be at least as old as the Facecloth<br />

of Oviedo — AD 616 or before.<br />

The combined evidence of the pollen samples, the Roman coins,<br />

the Facecloth of Oviedo, and the five new dating tests gives strong<br />

testimony that the shroud originated in First Century Palestine around<br />

the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion. This fact correlates well with the highly<br />

unique crucifixion of Jesus portrayed both on the shroud and in the<br />

Gospels: the crowning with thorns, being nailed to the Cross, being<br />

pierced with a Roman legionnaire’s spear, and receiving multiple lashes<br />

from a three-stranded whip with bone fragments on the end (a Roman<br />

flagrum used by Roman legionaires). The anatomical perfection of the<br />

blood stains on the shroud, the use of Roman weapons to produce<br />

those blood stains (legionaries spear and flagrum), and the unique features<br />

of Jesus’ Crucifixion not found in any other crucifixion (crown of<br />

174 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

Christ’s burial shroud is<br />

sometimes depicted in sacred<br />

art, as in this painting in San<br />

Fedele church in Milan, Italy.<br />

Pietà, by Simone Peterzano<br />

thorns, and spear wound in the side) make it highly probable that the<br />

shroud is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus. The investigation of the image’s<br />

formation corroborates this conclusion.<br />

The Image on the Shroud<br />

There are many striking anomalies about the image that raise significant<br />

scientific questions about how it was formed.<br />

First, the image is limited to the uppermost surface of the cloth. The<br />

fibers themselves are only discolored on their outermost edge — the<br />

image does not penetrate into the fibers anywhere. This fact not only<br />

excludes paint and dyes; it shows that the image was not produced by<br />

chemicals, vapors, or scorching of any kind. The most likely remaining<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


The image on the Shroud of<br />

Turin is a discoloration coming<br />

from dehydration that could<br />

only have been produced by a<br />

brief and intense burst of light<br />

radiation.<br />

Image courtesy Alamy<br />

explanation is that it was caused by light radiation (but, significantly, not<br />

by heat radiation).<br />

The image is also not a scorch, but rather discoloration coming from<br />

dehydration. This fact implies that the image could not have been produced<br />

by slowly dissipating radiation (which would have scorched it).<br />

The burst of light radiation that created the image would have had to be<br />

very brief and intense.<br />

Second, the image is a perfect photographic negative, in which the<br />

image intensity is related to the distance of the cloth from the body. In<br />

other words, the image is present on the cloth regardless of whether a<br />

particular portion of the cloth touched the body or not. This fact again<br />

implies that radiation — not chemicals or vapors — was the source of image<br />

formation. The kind of light radiation that might fit these conditions<br />

176 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

is called vacuum ultraviolet radiation. In fact, in 2010, scientists successfully<br />

reproduced the kind of surface coloration found on the shroud by<br />

firing a burst of vacuum ultraviolet radiation through an excimer laser at<br />

a linen with identical spectral reflectants to the shroud. Based on their<br />

results, they concluded that the image produced on the shroud would<br />

require a burst of radiation incredibly brief (less than one forty-billionth<br />

of a second) and incredibly intense (several billion watts). Such a burst<br />

of light energy would be equivalent to focusing one million search lights<br />

(ten thousand watts each) on a single spot seven feet in length — exceedingly<br />

bright. It is safe to assume that a medieval forger would not<br />

have had access to this kind of firepower. Even more, something very<br />

transformative and supernatural must have occurred for a dead body<br />

to give off such a powerful burst of radiation necessary to produce this<br />

image.<br />

Third, parts of the frontal image on the shroud ( particularly the<br />

hands ) and the dorsal image on the shroud (particularly the backbone)<br />

show an image which is resolvable into three dimensions, in which the<br />

inside skeletal parts of the hand are proportionately related to the surrounding<br />

exterior flesh on the hand. In other words, the radiation that<br />

discolored the cloth was emanating equally from every point of the<br />

body, inside and outside. This implies that the cloth collapsed into and<br />

through the body.<br />

Fourth, there is a double image on the frontal part of the cloth (a<br />

more intense image on the front surface — nearest the body — and a less<br />

intense image on the back surface — furthest from the body — without<br />

any effects between the two surfaces). This detail implies that the radiation<br />

that created the image surrounded both surfaces of the cloth,<br />

further implying that the cloth collapsed into and through the body.<br />

There is obviously no known scientific precedent for a body becoming<br />

mechanically transparent such that solid objects like cloth can pass<br />

through it.<br />

Certainly, by this point, it would be impossible to ignore the parallels<br />

with the soma pneumatikon (spiritual body) of the Resurrection when<br />

we ponder a body that suddenly produces a burst of billions of watts<br />

of radiation in a fraction of a second and at the same instant gains a<br />

spirit-like mechanically transparent property, enabling solid matter to<br />

pass through it. The need for some kind of transphysical (supernatural)<br />

causation and the correlation of these anomalies with the description<br />

of Jesus’ resurrected spiritual body in the Gospel narratives (and<br />

the letters of St. Paul) point quite convincingly to the Risen Jesus as<br />

the origin of the image. When we combine this information with the<br />

Something very<br />

transformative<br />

and<br />

supernatural<br />

must have<br />

occurred for a<br />

dead body to<br />

give off such a<br />

powerful burst<br />

of radiation<br />

necessary to<br />

produce this<br />

image.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


three-dimensional image of Jesus’ unique crucifixion as well as the<br />

probable origin of the cloth in first century Palestine, the evidence<br />

strongly corroborates the accuracy of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’<br />

crucifixion and glorious Resurrection appearance.<br />

Conclusion<br />

Analysis of the<br />

Shroud of Turin<br />

shows both<br />

the truth of the<br />

most significant<br />

event in human<br />

history as well<br />

as the accuracy<br />

of the Gospel<br />

accounts of it.<br />

The odds of this First Century Palestinian burial shroud — with the<br />

unique features of Jesus’ crucifixion and Resurrection — being of anyone<br />

but Jesus is exceedingly remote. Inasmuch as the image is not a<br />

forgery, and it originated from a real person living at the time of Jesus,<br />

who was crucified by Roman weapons in the unique way of Jesus, and<br />

whose dead body wrapped in the shroud produced a burst of intense<br />

vacuum ultraviolet radiation from his decomposing body, who else<br />

would it be?<br />

Given all this evidence, we might reasonably infer that the Shroud<br />

of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus which contains not only a detailed<br />

account of His crucifixion, but also the remnants of His Resurrection in<br />

glory. It shows both the truth of the most significant event in human history<br />

as well as the accuracy of the Gospel accounts of it.<br />

Editor’s note: The Catholic Church does not generally give approval to<br />

the authenticity of relics, and she is unlikely to do so in the case of the<br />

Shroud of Turin. Though the scientific case for the Shroud of Turin is<br />

quite strong, it is not yet definitive. Therefore, this material does not imply<br />

Church approval or definitive scientific confirmation. It only gives the<br />

scientific data and assessment of the shroud as far as it has been currently<br />

tested.<br />

178 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center



FOLD<br />

DORSAL<br />

IMAGE<br />

FOLD<br />

DORSAL<br />

IMAGE<br />




Thongs are studded<br />

with twin balls of metal.<br />

















1532, LATER PATCHED<br />





FROM FIRE OF 1532<br />


IMAGE<br />


IMAGE<br />

© Vernon Miller, 1978. No unauthorized reproduction of Material on other Websites is allowed without prior written permission<br />

from the shroudphotos.com copyright holder. Original photos are available for free at www.shroudphotos.com.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


Focus and Reflection Questions<br />

1 What is the Shroud of Turin? When was the shroud discovered?<br />

2 How do the blood stains on the cloth provide evidence that the shroud is not a forgery and was used<br />

to wrap Jesus’ body?<br />

3 One test dated the shroud to roughly 1350. Which test was this? And why are the findings rendered<br />

questionable?<br />

4 What was Dr. Raymond Rogers’ alternative dating method? What date did he come up with for the<br />

shroud using this method?<br />

5 What tests did Dr. Giulio Fanti use to date the shroud, and what dates did he come up with using<br />

them?<br />

6 What is the average date according to Dr. Rogers’ and Dr. Fanti’s findings regarding the shroud?<br />

7 What circumstantial evidence about the date of the shroud is provided by the pollen samples found<br />

on the shroud?<br />

8 What is indicated by the partial imprint of coins on the eyes of the figure on the shroud?<br />

9 What is the Facecloth of Oviedo? What correlation exists between the facecloth and the shroud?<br />

Why is this correlation significant for dating the Shroud of Turin?<br />

10 How does the shroud correspond with the Crucifixion account in the Gospels?<br />

11 How do we know that the image on the Shroud is not from paints, dyes, chemicals, vapors, or<br />

scorching?<br />

12 What evidence do we have specifically that the image came from vacuum ultraviolet radiation?<br />

13 How do we know something transformative and supernatural must have occurred for a corpse to<br />

emanate such a powerful burst of radiation necessary to produce the image? How can we know it<br />

was not a medieval forgery?<br />

14 What evidence implies that the cloth collapsed into and through the body? How does this evidence<br />

support the Resurrection?<br />

15 What parallels are there between the evidence from the shroud and the soma pneumatikon of the<br />

Resurrection?<br />

180 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

Straight to the Source<br />


Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Turin, Italy, May 24, 1998<br />

Dear Brothers and Sisters,<br />

1. With my gaze turned to the Shroud, I would like to extend a cordial greeting to you all, the faithful of<br />

the Church of Turin. I greet the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world at the time of<br />

this public exposition to look at one of the most unsettling signs of the Redeemer’s suffering love.<br />

As I entered the cathedral, which still shows the scars of last year’s terrible fire, I paused in adoration<br />

before the Eucharist, the sacrament which is the focus of the Church’s attention and, under humble<br />

appearances, contains the true, real and substantial presence of Christ. In the light of Christ’s presence<br />

in our midst, I then stopped before the Shroud, the precious Linen that can help us better to<br />

understand the mystery of the love of God’s Son for us. Before the Shroud, the intense and agonizing<br />

image of an unspeakable torment, I wish to thank the Lord for this unique gift, which asks for the<br />

believer’s loving attention and complete willingness to follow the Lord.<br />

2. The Shroud is a challenge to our intelligence. It first of all requires of every person, particularly the researcher,<br />

that he humbly grasp the profound message it sends to his reason and his life. The mysterious<br />

fascination of the Shroud forces questions to be raised about the sacred Linen and the historical<br />

life of Jesus. Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on<br />

these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory<br />

answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, which, according to tradition,<br />

wrapped the body of our Redeemer after he had been taken down from the cross. The Church urges<br />

that the Shroud be studied without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are<br />

not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology<br />

and the sensibilities of believers.<br />

3. For the believer, what counts above all is that the Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. In fact, if we reflect<br />

on the sacred Linen, we cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound<br />

relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus’ passion and death, that every sensitive person feels<br />

inwardly touched and moved at beholding it. Whoever approaches it is also aware that the Shroud<br />

does not hold people’s hearts to itself, but turns them to him, at whose service the Father’s loving<br />

providence has put it. Therefore, it is right to foster an awareness of the precious value of this image,<br />

which everyone sees and no one at present can explain. For every thoughtful person it is a reason for<br />

deep reflection, which can even involve one’s life. The Shroud is thus a truly unique sign that points to<br />

Jesus, the true Word of the Father, and invites us to pattern our lives on the life of the One who gave<br />

himself for us.<br />

4. The image of human suffering is reflected in the Shroud. It reminds modern man, often distracted by<br />

prosperity and technological achievements, of the tragic situation of his many brothers and sisters,<br />

and invites him to question himself about the mystery of suffering in order to explore its causes.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 3, Chapter 9: Science and the Shroud of Turin<br />


The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human<br />

capacity for causing pain and death to one’s fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of<br />

the innocent in every age: of the countless tragedies that have marked past history and the dramas<br />

that continue to unfold in the world. Before the Shroud, how can we not think of the millions of people<br />

who die of hunger, of the horrors committed in the many wars that soak nations in blood, of the<br />

brutal exploitation of women and children, of the millions of human beings who live in hardship and<br />

humiliation on the edges of great cities, especially in developing countries? How can we not recall<br />

with dismay and pity those who do not enjoy basic civil rights, the victims of torture and terrorism,<br />

the slaves of criminal organizations? By calling to mind these tragic situations, the Shroud not only<br />

spurs us to abandon our selfishness but leads us to discover the mystery of suffering, which, sanctified<br />

by Christ’s sacrifice, achieves salvation for all humanity. Death is not the ultimate goal of human<br />

existence.<br />

1 Why do you think Pope St. John Paul II calls the Shroud of Turin “one of the most unsettling signs of<br />

the Redeemer’s suffering love”?<br />

2 According to Pope St. John Paul II, what about the shroud counts above all for those who believe in<br />

Christ?<br />

3 What does the shroud invite us to do? How can we do this in our lives?<br />

4 How does the image on the shroud call us to reflect on human suffering?<br />

182 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

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