The Shroud of Turin, which some Christians believe to have been Jesus Christ’s burial cloth, made a rare appearance on Italian television screens Easter Saturday.
Pope Francis delivered a video message as part of the broadcast, in which he thanked God for the technological advances that made it possible to share the “Man of the Shroud” with so many.
“This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart,” he said.
“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 … And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.”
According to Vatican Radio, one of Benedict XVI’s last acts as pope was to authorize the broadcast of the linen cloth from Turin Cathedral. The last time the relic, which bears the image of a man’s body, was broadcasted was in 1973, at the behest of then-Pope Paul VI.
The image on the shroud appears to bear the markings of the crucifixion.
While some scholars contest the shroud’s authenticity and claim it actually dates to the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church does not seem to mind. Rather than insist on the shroud’s authenticity, the Vatican’s official position is that the linen cloth is an important symbol of Christians’ faith.
But new evidence uncovered by researchers at Padua University claim their more recent tests show the cloth does in fact date back to between 280 B.C. and 220 A.D. — meaning it could be placed within Jesus’ lifetime.
“We carried out three alternative dating tests on the shroud, two chemical and one mechanical, and they all gave the same result and they all traced back to the date of Jesus, with a possible margin of error of 250 years,” Fanti told CNN.
In keeping with today’s penchant for technology, an actual “Shroud 2.0” app was also launched Friday in several languages, allowing users to examine a high-definition image of the shroud and learn more about its history.
Giulio Fanti, professor of mechanical engineering at Padua University and co-author of the book, “The Mystery of the Shroud,” told CNN that the app will be “very useful” to the scientific community.
“I hope the app will give us the chance of having microscopic data that will be very useful to confront different scientific research on the shroud, which, until now, is still a mystery,” he said.