After five years of studies and research on the Holy Shroud, a scientific body of the highest competence concludes that Science, even the most advanced, is unable to produce anything like it. It is impossible to imitate or falsify it.
The Holy Shroud of Our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly the most precious and venerated relic throughout Christendom. Having gone through all kinds of vicissitudes and disasters throughout history, even a fire that was quickly put out, it is currently in the cathedral of Turin, Italy, where it is exposed to the faithful from time to time.
It is the linen cloth that wrapped the sacred body of the Saviour, buried in the tomb where it remained for three days, after which He resurrected. Divine Providence miraculously wanted the figure of Our Lord to remain indelibly printed in the fabric in a way completely inexplicable to humans. It was the way God the Father found to bequeath to men the printed photograph of His Divine Son.
Always Present in Church Life
The Holy Shroud fed the faith and piety of the early Christians in Jerusalem, sustained the martyrs and the persecuted in the catacombs, inspired the expansion of Catholics across the vast Roman Empire, entranced men of the Middle Ages and, in particular, sparked the zeal of Crusaders. In later times, of religious decadence, the Holy Shroud was still a light strengthening the fidelity of the faithful and a hope of forgiveness for all mankind.
Thus we come to present times, when many atheists, heretics and decadent Catholics see the considerable development of science as sounding a death knell for veneration of the Holy Shroud, which in their view no longer has any mission to accomplish. It would now be thoroughly studied by science, which would prove that it is merely a human-made piece of clothing, perhaps even a forgery made in the Middle Ages.
What actually happened was precisely the opposite. Attracted by the originality of that mysterious tissue, leading scientists from different countries, representing the most diverse branches of science have focused on the Holy Shroud to study and interpret it with the most sophisticated devices that science has ever been able to invent, and have applied the latest knowledge and leading-edge techniques. The result was quite surprising to detractors of the Holy Shroud: it was proven that the figure printed on it has no natural explanation whatsoever.
Moreover, the studies have shown that the Shroud originated in Palestine in the first century; that the figure depicted in it coincides with the description of the Gospels; and that science is wholly unable to explain how it was printed on the linen.
The Carbon 14 Hoax
There was one exception in 1987, when Anastasio Cardinal Ballestrero, then Archbishop of Turin, summoned some specialists in the Carbon 14 dating method, who concluded, against all that science had proved up until then, that the Shroud was a forgery produced in medieval times.
After a small outbreak of the “forgery” news in the media, many scientists went on to study the Shroud — an object of continuing fascination to science — and showed that the Carbon 14 method had been erroneously applied by the specialists of Cardinal Ballestrero and proved nothing.
The scientists also sought to obtain the “raw data” from the laboratories that performed the Carbon 14 test in order to have the necessary evidence in hand, but got nothing from them despite repeated requests. That alone casts a heavy doubt on the whole scientific authenticity of the forgery claim.
One would say that Our Lord worked the miracle of the Shroud for our times, as only now, with the huge body of knowledge available, it is scientifically possible to prove its authenticity.
A New and Important Confirmation
A new and portentous confirmation has now come in, from Italy. The Italian government’s highly respected scientific agency, the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) published in late 2011 a report covering the five years of tests (2005-2010) carried out on the Shroud to ascertain “how such a particular image was printed on the linen screen of the Shroud of Turin.”1
In this report, ENEA scientists Di Lazzaro, Murra, Santoni, Nichelatti and Baldacchini “deny with great fair play, almost in passing, but very categorically, the hypothesis that the Shroud might be the work of a medieval forger.”
The report notes: “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory, as discussed in numerous articles listed in the references. This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.”
“In fact, today Science is still not able to explain how the body image was formed on the Shroud. As a partial justification, Scientists complain that it is impossible to take direct measurements on the Shroud cloth…. until now all attempts to reproduce an image on linen with the same characteristics have failed.”
We spare the reader the many complex scientific data presented by ENEA scientists. Those interested can find them on the link below.2
A Divinely Suave and Severe Gaze
Facing something as sacred as the Holy Shroud, we should close with a note which is not one of a scientist (however respectable and very important), but of a man of faith. We find it in this commentary by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, contemplating the image of Our Lord imprinted on the Shroud:
“Through it we can have a glimpse of how His gaze was divinely soft and affable, how His words and the tone of His voice were supremely affable. This is a result of the coexistence of all virtues, all perfections, in all grades that could fit in His human nature as a reflection of the divine nature joined to the former through the hypostatic union.
“Moreover, note the severity of His expression. Our Lord died the victim of a heinous crime. The worst of all crimes, the crime of deicide, produced and operated by the greatest torment ever heard of in history.
“Looking at this physiognomy, you see how He stands as a Judge before his tormentors. And how He manifests a rejection, a censure, a disagreement, and a condemnation to those who killed Him. It is as if He is saying, ‘I am the Law, I am the Judge, and I am the Victim! And I judge in these three capacities, the crime that has been perpetrated against Me.’ This is truly divine, majestic and awesome.”3
- Marco Tosati, “The Shroud Is Not a Fake” Vatican Insider, Dec. 15, 2011 http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/sacra-sindone-holy-shroud-sabana-santa-10738/.
- The ENEA Report can be read in its integrity at: http://opac.bologna.enea.it:8991/RT/2011/2011_14_ENEA.pdf
- Lecture to TFP members and volunteers on March 10, 1973 (without revision by the author).