Finding Christ's Imprint

Interview With Expert on the Shroud of Turin

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By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, MARCH 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Those who won't admit to seeing Christ in the imprint of the Shroud of Turin are those who are afraid to acknowledge him, according to the vice director of the International Center for Shroud Studies.

Nello Balossino participated Friday in an international congress on the hypotheses and scientific studies regarding the shroud, organized by the master's program in science and faith of the Regina Apostolorum university. 

In this interview with ZENIT, Balossino comments on the current status of studies regarding the shroud and what steps need to be taken to prove a connection between the cloth and Christ.

Q: After so many years of studies, in your own opinion, who is the man of the shroud?

Balossino: Interdisciplinary studies have been conducted on the shroud for centuries. Some of them have produced unmistakable and significant results. Others have simply laid the foundations for later research. Regardless, all the studies coincide in truly finding that the shroud is not a counterfeit, but rather, it could well be the cloth that covered the body of a man who was submitted to the martyrdom of crucifixion following the characteristics described in the Gospels.

So it could be Christ. As well, the computer technology research we’ve conducted has added credence to this hypothesis: Digital analysis of the data reveals underlying information. Take for example how thanks to technology some of the details regarding facial wounds were discovered, which are not visible to the naked eye.

Q: How meaningful has carbon dating done on the shroud been with regard to uncovering the truth?

Balossino: If by uncovering the truth you mean finding irrefutable proof that the shroud covered Christ’s body, that’s probably never going to happen. Nevertheless, carbon dating, a controversial analysis in subject matters beyond the Shroud of Turin, doesn’t stand in the way of research conducted over the years because it is a finding that could be once again questioned.

Carbon dating doesn’t detract from what is contained in the image, in other words, the sufferings borne by a man.

As far as the validity of the radioactive dating applied to the shroud, which is well known to have been contaminated a number of ways over the centuries, among them in the Chambery fire, we should be very cautious of extrapolating rash conclusions based on the results.

This is also due to the fact that the protocol followed in [the] 1988 [test] was outside of standard practice, such as the blind selection of sample material, which was not followed. Now we are looking at a probable reexamination of the methodology employed by the very people that studied the shroud.

Q: In your opinion, is it possible to find the exact age of the shroud? What tools and technologies could be used to provide a reasonable framework for research?

Balossino: I think an interdisciplinary group of experts should decide how to choose a methodology for precisely dating the cloth. The purpose would be to avoid recommitting the carbon dating error. For example, a technology that can find the age of cloth is cellulite depolimerization, which is superior because it is not influenced by any type of contaminant.

Q: Is it true that traces of blood of the crucified man have been left on the shroud?

Balossino: There are a number of traces of blood that came from the crucified man on the shroud, as much as when he was alive as after death, such as the prominent wound on the right side.

Q: Is there a scientific explanation that can replicate the image of a man wrapped in cloth in the same manner as has happened in the case of the Shroud of Turin?

Balossino: Many theories have been proposed regarding the origin of the image on the shroud. The most credible ones, because they have produced images similar to the Shroud of Turin, are as follows.

Contact theory: The body of the man in the Shroud of Turin caused the imprint through direct contact with the cloth in the space of less than 40 hours. There are not effective traces of decomposition.

Vapor theory: Vapors given off by the corpse reacted with the aloe and myrrh solution possibly present on the cloth to stop the decomposition process.

Radiating energy theory: Various types of energy acted on the aloe and myrrh solution, for example electromagnetic energy or light or even the transformation of matter into energy, which is only possible in a nuclear explosion.

It should be noted that the experiments have only been done on the facial region and have run into a number of application problems; I can just imagine the problems that will certainly arise in the front and back body regions.

Q: In your opinion, why are so many people afraid of discovering the imprint of Jesus in the mysterious shroud?

Balossino: Maybe because they are afraid of admitting there was a man 2,000 years ago willing to sacrifice himself for humanity. Today there are also many people who, although not to the same extreme degree of Christ, lay themselves out for their neighbor and don’t just think about their own egoism.