By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A scientist who participated in the first International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe in Phoenix, Arizona last week said there is no scientific explanation for the image left on the Tilma of St. Juan Diego during the apparitions that occurred 478 years ago.
According to a report by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), physcist Dr. Aldofo Orozco spoke at the Congress, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, saying the image on the Tilma “is completely beyond any scientific explanation.”
“All the cloths similar to the Tilma that have been placed in the salty and humid environment around the Basilica have lasted no more than ten years,” he explained.
Dr. Orozco said one painting of the miraculous image which was created in 1789, was on display in a church near the basilica where the Tilma was placed. “This painting was made with the best techniques of its time, the copy was beautiful and made with a fabric very similar to that of the Tilma. Also, the image was protected with a glass since it was first placed there.”
However, eight years later, the copy had to be discarded because the colors were fading and the threads were breaking. In contrast, he said, “the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.”
While discussing the tilma’s fabric, he said that “one of the most bizarre characteristics of the cloth is that the back side is rough and coarse, but the front side is ‘as soft as the most pure silk, as noted by painters and scientists in 1666, and confirmed one century later in 1751 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera.”
An analysis of the fibers of the Tilma conducted in 1946 revealed that they came from the Agave plant, however, researchers don’t know which of the 175 Agave species the Tilma was made from. Years later, in 1975, “the famous Mexican researcher Ernesto Sodi Pallares said that the species of the agave was Agave popotule Zacc,” Dr. Orozco explained, “but we don’t know how he reached this conclusion.”
There have also been two miracles associated with the Tilma that preserved it from destruction, Dr. Orozco concluded.
The first occurred in 1785 when a worker accidentally spilled a nitric acid on the right side of the cloth. “Besides any natural explanation, the acid has not destroyed the fabric of the cloth, indeed it has not even destroyed the colored parts of the image,” Dr. Orozco said.
The second miracle occurred in 1921 when a bomb exploded under the altar over which the Tilma hangs. Even though the explosion broke the marble floor and shattered windows 150 meters away, neither the Tilma nor the glass case that protects it was harmed.
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