Seeing What Peter Saw in the Empty Tomb

Historian Shares Research on Shroud of Turin, Veil of Manoppello

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By Kathleen Naab

SAN FRANCISCO, California, APRIL 8, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Those at this morning's Easter Sunday Mass heard the beautiful account of the Resurrection from St. John. Most Catholics are so accustomed to the reading that the Evangelist's careful attention in recounting the placement of the burial cloths might have gone unnoticed.

"When Simon Peter arrived after [the other disciple whom Jesus loved,] he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place."

Historian and journalist Paul Badde doesn't overlook that detail. He believes that both of the cloths described by St. John still exist, their whereabouts is known, and both have been the subject of careful examination, though the shroud more than the veil. Badde is the author of "The True Icon," a beautiful coffee-table-type book, full of lovely images that was recently released by Ignatius Press.

Subtitled "From the Shroud of Turin to the Veil of Manoppello," the book complements Badde's earlier work in "The Face of God" and a documentary called "The Holy Face" (both also published by Ignatius.)

Badde believes that the rediscovery of the Holy Veil of Manoppello answers questions that have kept some from acknowledging the Shroud of Turin as the cloth Joseph of Arimathea used to enwrap Christ’s body for burial.

Badde responded by email to ZENIT questions about his research and his own understanding of St. John's account of the burial cloths.

ZENIT: Tell us what you understand the shroud and the "veil" to be -- the veil, or napkin, above all is less well-known, but it is not Veronica's veil?

Badde: The Shroud and the napkin are referring to the very same shroud and the napkin St. John is referring to in his Gospel of the Resurrection, naming in them in Greek Othonia and Soudarion. Having said this, the expression Soudarion is the first name of the napkin. Later, it attracted many other names since nobody could explain where it came from -- realizing at the same time that it must have come into being in an inexplicable way. Therefore, it had for instance the name: acheropoieton (not made by man’s hands), Image of King Abgar, Camuliana veil, Mandylion, True Icon (Vera Icon) and Veronica’s veil. In fact, all these names meant the same piece of cloth. Last year, Professor Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, accepted that it had been kept as the “True Icon” in St. Peter’s Basilica from the year 706 through 1527. And that year, it got away during the confusion of the Sack of Rome. Until that date it had been the most precious treasure of the popes. 

[The relationship between the two cloths] is very well described in the Gospel of St. John. The shroud had been used to wrap Jesus’ dead body. And the napkin had been laid over his face, although we do not know by whom? Was it Mary? Or Mary Magdalene, or Joseph of Arimathea or even Pilatus’ wife? We just do not know. We just know that it had been extremely delicate and precious and expensive – just as the ointments the women brought to the grave as if they would bury a king.

ZENIT: Could you describe the napkin for us, and explain what the image is like and in what way we can understand it. Is there reason to believe the napkin could be authentic?

Badde: There is, in fact, no reason NOT to believe that it is authentic for anybody who ever came really close to it. It’s a living image as we cannot find it anywhere else in the whole wide world – not even among the most beautiful icons. The image itself rests in an extremely fine and transparent veil of sea silk, on which it is completely and technically impossible to paint. No wonder that we cannot detect the finest trace of color in it. But the image of the Face is undeniably there and to be seen from both sides. It’s nothing less than the human Face of God – of which Pope Benedict XVI keeps talking ever since he visited it in Manoppello on Sept. 1, 2006. 

ZENIT: You speak of the image-oriented culture in which we live. What is your reflection on the shroud and the napkin in that context?

Badde: We do witness an enormous re-emergence of a culture of images in the digital worldwide net, even to an extent that wise observers don’t hesitate to talk of a dramatic "iconic turn" that we are witnessing where images can be understood as the most complex texts we have and that we know of. It is precisely in these times that also the true icon reappears out of the dark in a way in which it had never been possible to see before. It used to be the mother of all the Icons of Christ the Lord. Now it isn’t buried underneath the mountains of images that overwhelm every one of us, but it tops all of them. It hits our conscience as a cosmic storage chip that we have just started to decipher. And there is no reasonable doubt that it will be the core instrument for the re-evangelization for all of us – beginning in the Year of Faith, which the Pope has just declared. 

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On the Net:

More information on "The True Icon": http://www.ignatius.com/Products/FSTVM-H/the-true-icon.aspx)