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Shroud of Turin, venerated as Jesus' burial cloth, on display again after 5 years
Venerated as the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, the Shroud of Turin is on public display again in Italy after a five-year absence. - photo by Mark A. Kellner
Venerated as the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, the Shroud of Turin is on public display again in Italy after a five-year absence.

Officials put the 14 foot-long piece of fabric on display last weekend, and already one million people have snapped up free reserved tickets, offered online, to view the plastic-encased relic.

"The shroud can be seen by the public until June 24, at the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin," NPR reported. Pope Francis is expected to view the Shroud when he visits the northern Italian city June 21-22, according to the Catholic News Agency.

"The story of the cloth itself has been shrouded in mystery for centuries, with some Christians believing the marks of dried blood match where Jesuss hands and feet would have bled from his crucifixion wounds," according to The Independent newspaper. "It has also been said the dried blood around the head area of the cloth, where the markings of a mans face appear to be shown, are from Jesuss crown of thorns."

Because of these attributes, the ancient cloth has stirred mixed reactions, the BBC reported. "Sceptics point to carbon dating that suggests it is a medieval forgery from the 1300s," the news agency said, adding, "Scientists have not agreed on how the image of a man was imprinted on the cloth."

According to the BBC, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin said, "What counts the most is that this shroud reflects in a clear and precise manner how the gospels describe the passion and death of Jesus. It is not a profession of faith because it is not an object of faith, nor of devotion, but it can help faith."

The Shroud was last exhibited in Turin in 2010, 12 years after its previous public showing. Why such a quick return to the spotlight? "Officially, it is revealing itself on account of St. John Bosco, who was born 200 years ago in August," said Britain's Telegraph newspaper. Unofficially, "it was a trial run for the Papal visit."

According to the Wall Street Journal, questions remain in part because the Shroud is not an "official" relic. "In the case of the Shroud of Turin, the church does not take a stance as to whether it is authentic or not, leaving that question to scientists and historians," the newspaper said. "The results of carbon-14 tests in 1988 suggested the shroud was no older than the 13th century, but other experts have since suggested that the fabric tested may have been contaminated by centuries of handling."

Perhaps the most interesting testimony comes from technical photographer Barrie Schwortz, who was part of a team that closely examined and photographed the cloth in 1978, and recently told the Catholic World Report the totality of evidence convinced him the Shroud was authentic.

"The most plausible explanation to me for the Shroud, both because of the science and my own personal background as a Jew, is that it was the cloth that was used to wrap Jesus body," Schwortz said.
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