Pope Calls Turin Shroud “Icon Written in Blood”

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

After praying before the famous Shroud of Turin on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI described it as being an “icon written in blood” that wrapped the remains of a crucified man “in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus.”

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the Pope made these statements during a meditation following his visit to the Shroud, which is on display in St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Turin, Italy for the first time since 1998.

Although past popes have been careful not to state whether or not they believe the Shroud is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus, Pope Benedict’s statements are considered to be the closest yet to such an admission.

He described the cloth as “an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified, and injured on his right side.”

The shroud went on public display April 10 for the first time in a decade and will conclude later this month, during which time nearly two million pilgrims are expected to have viewed it. The 14-foot-long, 3.5-foot-wide cloth is normally kept in a climate-controlled case in the royal chapel of Turin’s cathedral.

New research by historian Barbara Frale, unveiled in November, said computer enhancements of the Shroud uncovered the words “Jesus Nazarene” written very faintly on the cloth in Greek, Aramaic and Latin.

Monitor reporter Nick Squires reports that in Frale’s new book, The Shroud of Jesus the Nazarene, she asserts that the words were written by Roman officials or mortuary clerks on a scroll or piece of papyrus to identify the corpse. Such a document would have enabled the relatives of a dead person to retrieve a body from a communal morgue, she suggested. It would have been attached to the corpse with a flour-based glue and the ink could have seeped through into the cloth below, leaving a faint imprint.

Frale told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that the hidden text was, in effect, the “burial certificate” of Jesus.

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