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Pope Francis invited for rare showing of Shroud of Turin

Event planned as part of celebrations of birth of Don Bosco

04 December, 13:52
Pope Francis invited for rare showing of Shroud of Turin (ANSA) - Turin, December 4 - Pope Francis has been invited to attend a showing of the mysterious Shroud of Turin in 2015, the city's archbishop Msgr. Cesare Nosglia said Wednesday.

Following Easter and continuing through August 16, 2015 the shroud that is believed by the faithful to bear the image of Jesus Christ will be on display.

The pope's participation is expected, "but the decision will be up to him," said Nosiglia.

The event is timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco, who was born on August 16, 1815 as Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco.

The Catholic priest and educator became popularly known as Don Bosco as he worked in 19th century industrialized Turin to better the lives of street children and disadvantaged youth.

The Shroud of Turin is not often shown in public but in March, Pope Francis was involved in a broadcast event that showed rare images of the mysterious holy relic to TV viewers.

Francis delivered the opening message in that unusual event on state broadcaster RAI, which marked only the second time the Church has permitted the Shroud to be filmed and broadcast.

In 2010, former Pope Benedict XVI viewed the Shroud of Turin during a special seven-week display that marked the first time the Shroud had been seen by the public since it was restored in 2002. Before then, it had been on view in 2000 and has been on display only five times in the past 100 years.

Believers say the linen Shroud was used to cover the body of Christ after his crucifixion and countless scientific tests conducted over the years have revealed the outline of the body of a man embedded in the fabric.

The Shroud is normally heavily guarded in a bullet-proof, climate-controlled glass case within Turin's most important cathedral.

Only once before had images of the Shroud been broadcast as ordered in November 1973 by then-pope Paul VI.

Some sceptics maintain the Shroud is nothing more than an elaborate fake dating from the Middle Ages, triggering centuries of debate over whether the image is truly that of Christ, or a very good forgery.

Radiocarbon-dating tests conducted on the cloth in 1988 suggested it dated from between 1260 and 1390; however, other scientists have since claimed those results could have been distorted by centuries of contamination.

That has led to calls for more testing, which the Vatican has consistently refused.