WEYBURN, Sask. — No one knows for sure how long the Shroud of Turin has been around, but the first documented evidence of its existence dates to about AD 1353 in a small village south of Paris, France. Since then it has held the attention of the world with many believing it is Christ’s burial shroud and the faded, vague image is indeed that of Jesus Christ.
That fascination was in evidence the evening of March 2 at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Weyburn, when James Richards gave a PowerPoint presentation to about 40 fellow parishioners. He showed photos of the shroud and presented information about the various research projects that provide evidence both for and against the image being that of Christ.
Richards is not a recognized expert on the shroud, but admits to a fascination with it since he first heard about it as a teenager. He firmly believes the image is that of Christ.
“The evidence in favour of its being Christ’s image, to me, is more compelling than evidence against. It is agreed by many who have studied the shroud that it is not a painting, as some believe, because there is no evidence of brush strokes anywhere on the shroud,” Richards said in speaking with the Prairie Messenger a few days after his presentation.
Radio-carbon dating has placed the linen in the Middle Ages but, as Richards points out, other researchers have suggested the linen may have been repaired at some point using more current materials. He also notes that the shroud does contain pollen of plants that grow nowhere else except in the Jerusalem area.
Most who study the shroud believe the image is of a Roman man because it contains marks that show the man was flogged with an instrument known to be used by Roman soldiers, but whether it is Christ’s image is something else.
Richards also notes that, thus far, no one can explain how the image got on the linen. The church will not allow any further testing in fear of destroying the image, and so far as it is known, nothing has been scraped off the image for analysis.
The shroud is kept in a hermetically sealed container in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin and is not on display; it is brought out only on special occasions. Richards explained that when the last of the Savoy family that previously ruled Italy died in the 1980s the shroud was willed to Pope John Paul II and his successors.
Richards urged his audience to not base their faith on whether or not the image on the shroud is Christ.