Ecumenical News International just reported that Pope Benedict travelled to Turin on 2 May to “venerate” the Turin shroud, a medieval fake that was claimed to be the burial cloth or shroud of Jesus Christ.
According to the report the pope described the shroud as “an icon written in blood”, itself a highly dubious claim. “The image imprinted on the shroud is that of a dead man but the blood speaks of his life,” said Benedict. He asserted that the image showed a wound in the chest that corresponded to the Biblical account of Jesus being pierced in the side with the spear of a Roman soldier, claiming that the shroud contains the “blood of a man scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded in the right side,” which is certainly untrue.
Carbon tests in 1988 dated the shroud to between 1260 and 1390. In 1989, a team of researchers said they had found the shroud to be a medieval fake. Although scientists who examined the cloth could not account for the images on it, the onus of proof is on those who make such claims, not for skeptics to show how a fake was perpetrated.
Some half a million people have visited the shroud since it was put on display in Turin Cathedral in 2000.
Italian Protestant pastor Giuseppe Platone of the Waldensian Church was quoted by the Rome-based Micromega magazine at the end of April as criticising the veneration of the shroud. “For Protestants, it represents an ambiguous and commercial operation, typical of religion that is seen as an instrument of political power,” Platone said.
We could not agree more.
Roy Brown leads the IHEU delegation to the United Nations in Geneva and is a past president of IHEU.