Pope Francis links Turin Shroud to Jesus as relic is shown on TV
POPE Francis has drawn an explicit link between Christ and the ghostly image imprinted on the Turin Shroud but stopped short of declaring the holy icon the true burial cloth of Jesus.
The newly-elected Pope spoke of the significance of the mysterious relic as it was shown on television for only the second time in its history, the day before Easter Sunday.
Francis referred to the 14ft-long strip of sepia cloth, which is imprinted with the face and body of a bearded man, as “the Holy Shroud”.
“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,” he said.
“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.
He likened the look of suffering on the face of the man to the pain and horrors endured by the victims of modern war and conflict.
“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," he said.
“And yet at the same time the face in the shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.”
Since being elected the successor to Benedict XVI earlier this month, the Argentinean Pope has repeatedly called for the need to protect the weak, vulnerable and dispossessed in society.
“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,” he said.
The Pope recorded the introduction for the 90-minute broadcast on RAI, the state television channel, from Turin Cathedral, where the relic is kept in a special climate-controlled case.
The linen cloth is believed by many Catholics to have been used to cover the body of Christ after he was crucified.
Earlier this week, a new book claimed that the shroud was not a medieval forgery, but did date to ancient times, a few centuries before or after the life of Christ.
Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy put the age of the shroud at between 300 BC and 400AD.
But their findings will be fiercely contested by other experts, who believe the shroud is an ingenious fake dating from the Middle Ages.