Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vatican's official newspaper says science cannot explain Turin Shroud

"For science, the shroud continues to be an 'impossible object' – impossible to falsify," L'Osservatore Romano said in a lengthy article on Thursday. 

After conducting five years of advanced laser experiments, a team of experts from Enea, the National Agency for New Technologies and Energy, concluded that the imprint of a bearded man's face and crucified body could not be reproduced by modern scientific techniques.

The 14-ft-long, 3.5-ft-wide cloth was therefore not a medieval fake, the team said.

They concluded that the iconic image was created by "some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)".

The researchers presented their results with "extreme caution" and had stopped short of putting forward theories that "strayed from science", the Vatican daily said.
But the implication of their work was that the enigmatic marks on the cloth were created at the moment of Christ's Resurrection by some sort of miracle.

Kept in a bulletproof, climate-controlled case in Turin Cathedral, the shroud is imprinted with the figure of a crucified man, complete with wounds to his hands and feet.

Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, the president of the Turin commission responsible for the relic, told the newspaper: "Revelations about the shroud easily assume a sensational tone, but in this case the measured way the scientists speak of their research is to be appreciated. It's a rare thing that gives the news added seriousness".

He said the Catholic Church would welcome more tests being conducted on the holy relic.

"New technologies will enable non-invasive experiments to be conducted on the fabric. But it will be important to respect scientific rigour and procedures, in order to avoid sensationalism and to respect the great religious meaning that the shroud has for Christians."

The results obtained by the Italian scientific team were credible, L'Osservatore Romano insisted, in contrast with the many outlandish theories that have emerged about how the shroud may have formed.

"In recent years the announcements of 'new discoveries' and 'surprising revelations' about the shroud have become a veritable industry – it has been linked to the Knights Templar or Martians, and there are those who claim that it was created by Leonardo da Vinci," the newspaper, the daily gazette of the Holy See, said.

The experiments carried out by the Enea team contradicted carbon-dating tests conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona in 1988 which suggested that the shroud dated from between 1260 and 1390 and was indeed a medieval forgery, the paper said.

Although the Vatican has never asserted that the shroud is incontestably genuine, Pope Benedict XVI came close to endorsing its authenticity during a visit to Turin in May 2010.

"This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus," he said.

The relic was "an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified and injured on his right side," the Pope said.