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Internet boosts Shroud pre-bookings

Over two million expected to view relic in Turin

25 March, 16:55
Internet boosts Shroud pre-bookings

(ANSA) - Vatican City, March 25 - Thanks to the Internet, over one million people have pre-booked tickets for the upcoming viewing of the Shroud of Turin, organizers said on Thursday.

Pre-bookings currently stand at 1,342,486 of which 88.96% were done through the Internet, compared to 9.04% through a toll-free phone number, and over two million are now expected view the holy relict believed to bear the image of the crucified Christ.

The Internet was not used before the Shroud's last viewing in 2000 and pre-bookings were just over 250,000.

The April 10 to May 23 display of the holy relict was official presented Thursday by the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Severino Poletti, who sought to stress the more spiritual than commercial side of the event.

"Our Christian faith is not based on the Shroud but on the Gospel and the teaching of the Apostles. However, the displaying of the Shroud is an occasion to help the faithful meditate, pray and contemplate on the mystery and extraordinary suffering of Christ," the archbishop said.

Pope Benedict XVI, who gave his personal approval to the viewing 15 years ahead of its scheduled display during the 2025 Holy Year Jubilee, is set to travel to Turin to view the Shroud in May 2.

During Thursday's press conference, Cardinal Poletto admitted that "there is no mathematical certainty that the Shroud is indeed the cloth in which Our Lord was wrapped. This can only come from scientists and historians, if it is possible at all".

"However, it is also true that all attempts to imitate or recreate it artificially have failed and it is certainly not something which was manufactured," he added.

According to the cardinal, "our faith, our prayers and our contemplations are helped by its image".

This will be the first time the Turin Shroud has been seen by the public since it was restored in 2002. It has been on display only five times in the past 100 years.

Visitors will have three minutes to view the cloth believed by many to have been used to wrap the body of the crucified Christ.

The shroud bears the faint image of the front and back of a tall, long-haired, bearded man and appears to be stained by blood from wounds in his feet, wrists and side.

SHROUD'S AUTHENTICITY REMAINS A MYSTERY.

Whether the Shroud's haunting image is holy or counterfeit remains one of the great mysteries of all time. Experts have never been able to explain how the image was made.

Carbon-dating tests were conducted on the cloth in 1988 by scientists in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona, who were each given separate linen samples to work with.

The tests dated the Shroud to between 1260 and 1390, suggesting that it was a brilliant mediaeval fake.

Other scientists have since claimed that contamination over the ages, for example from water damage and fire, were not taken sufficiently into account and could have distorted the results.

In 1999 yet another group of experts put a 7th century date on it, following careful comparisons of an almost identical shroud in Valencia.

In the same year two Israeli scientists said plant pollen found on the Shroud supported the view that it comes from the Holy Land.

Given the controversy and the fact that dating techniques have improved significantly since the 1988 tests were done, there have been numerous calls for further testing.

In 2005, a study, published in the international scientific journal Thermonautica Acta, claimed that the shroud is between 1300 and 3000 years old and dismissed carbon dating tests carried out in 1988.

The author of the study, Dr Raymond Rogers, said the 1988 tests had used bits of cloth which were not part of the original shroud, but taken from patches added much later to repair fire damage.

He based his claim on his studies of the samples used for the carbon dating and comparisons with other samples taken from the main sheet of cloth.

According to the author, the different ages of the two cloths could be proved by the relative levels of a chemical called vanillin which they contained.

Dr Rogers is a retired chemist from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and is considered one of the world's leading experts on the world-famous relic.

In October 2009 a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, Luigi Garlaschelli, announced that he had made a life-sized reproduction of the Turin Shroud using only medieval technologies.

However, leading Shroud scholars have contested both his claims and results.

The Shroud is thought to have travelled widely before it was brought to France in the 14th century by a crusader.

French Clarisse nuns kept it for many years in one of their convents, where it was damaged by fire in 1532.

The nuns sought to put this damage right two years later by sewing about 30 patches onto it.

The Shroud was given to the Turin archbishop in 1578 by the Duke of Savoy and has been kept in the Cathedral ever since.

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