What to Look for From the Shroud
Interview With Researcher of Shroud of Turin
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ROME, SEPT. 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The exposition of the Holy Shroud of Turin in 2010 is a "providential opportunity" to understand its spiritual meaning, says one of its researchers.
Father Gianfranco Berbenni, titular professor of the course titled "Science and Theology in Face of the Holy Shroud," in the Science and Faith master's program of the Regina Apostolorum university, says he is in favor of scientific research that avoids the spectacular when dealing with the shroud.
In this interview with ZENIT, he suggests what can be gleaned from the 2010 exposition.
Q: What is your reaction to the announcement of the public exposition of the holy shroud?
Father Berbenni: It is a providential opportunity to be able to carry out a pastoral program that is centered on the passion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and it is a providential opportunity for the holy shroud to be a privileged witness, together with the service of the Gospels and of the sacraments, which might be the occasion for far more intense socio-political commitments, especially in the area of emergencies and charity.
Q: In recent months, there seems to be a new interest in the holy shroud. What do you see as positive or potentially negative about this?
Father Berbenni: I see as positive an aspect that is normal for science: never to abandon the analysis of an object. In this case, the holy shroud is an archeological vestige for science, a fabric with bloody impressions of a dead person in certain circumstances. I would say that it is a normal and welcome practice for science to continue its study.
Perhaps there is a search for the scientifically spectacular, and this is an element of weakness in the current research. I believe what is necessary is to go back to the cards in play, by returning to plan the "match" according to its norms, in a simple way, without the hope of spectacular findings.
Beyond the media, what is at stake here is the spectacular manner of the scientific procedure.
What is more, there is a danger, at least for us priests. Even if a level of viability is reached on radiation that allows for the superficial diffusion of the shroud's bodily impression, the great danger would be if the scientists themselves began to "engage in theology" saying, "We have discovered the energy that has caused the Resurrection" -- something that for theologians not only is very debatable but that goes against the current of the strategy that the Gospels have chosen as the determinant cause of faith in the Resurrection, namely, the testimony of the Scriptures and of the Apostles.
The real danger that lies behind this excess is to seek the cause of the superficial impression on the holy shroud; it is the invasion of laboratory science in theological science.
One would have to go back to 1984, when the "Shroud of Turin Research Project" (STURP) team of the United States reported on the research initiated in 1978 and presented a spectacular "Formal Scientific Research Program on the Holy Shroud of Turin," which, sadly, has remained almost totally absent from debates on the Shroud.
One would have to return to that time, to discuss in detail the so-called superficiality of the bodily image of the holy shroud. It would be even more important and desirable if the medical world would make a new, high-level effort to analyze the holy shroud, especially with teams of experts in legal pathology. The medical-scientific sector is very much a minority in research on the holy shroud. I think it should intervene very forcefully.
Q: What are your thoughts on the experiment carried out by Italy's Entity for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment, headed by Dr. Giuseppe Baldacchini, which has led to images structurally comparable with the image of the man of the holy shroud.
Father Berbenni: It is an interesting scientific experiment from the point of view of results. From the point of view of the study of the shroud, I believe it should be placed in a broader context of discussion.
Q: Do you think that in some way it can contribute elements for a possible explanation on how the image was formed?
Father Berbenni: I believe those who proceed to verify the thesis of the superficiality of the bodily image are those who have difficulty in considering the formation of the bodily impression as a simple natural phenomenon of a physical-chemical nature.
I believe they will follow the path to seek an energy that can be documented, as in the case of this ultraviolet radiation.
However, I think it is necessary to keep in mind the theory of the natural formation, according to which, there are no superficial impressions as, in fact, STURP's scientists themselves were planning to verify -- this which to them seemed an incontrovertible fact stemming from the first elements, postulates and collection of data.