When, after much persuasion, the Church agreed to the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin it was billed by the Media as Science v’s Religion. The world waited - some with baited breath. I had a close up view of what led up to the test and have some claim to responsibility for bringing it about. I will tell you the bare bones of my story here and why I believe a great injustice was done.
The Shroud of Turin (below) is a linen cloth 4.4m long by 1.1 wide. It has a geometrical pattern of burns and patches caused by a known fire in 1532. It bears an image of a naked man who, according to forensic pathologists, has endured a crucifixion. The image, though clearly perceptible to the eye, is revealed in much more clarity when reversed into the negative image below. It remains a total enigma. Its charted history begins in 1355 but no one knows its origins though there are potential links with a known ancient cloth of similar description that disappeared from Constantinople 150 years earlier. It is a unique and multi-dimensional artefact in every sense of that word as you will discover. No one has been able to explain or reproduce the nano-metre thin discolouration of the surface fibres that forms the image.
Christian relics were highly valued in the Middle Ages and there were many crude attempts to fashion them. The Shroud must fall under deep suspicion. But a suspect is not automatically guilty. Everyone deserves a fair trial and even then mistakes are made. That is why we have an appeal system. The single C14 test is an "outlier" in a mass of other evidence that, for anyone with a genuinely open mind, makes a charge of fraud against the Shroud very difficult to sustain. Such a charge becomes even more unjustified in the light of new evidence that reveals that all five protocols established to ensure a definitive C14 dating were, one by one, quietly set aside.
"Surely, on the basis of this evidence, there are grounds for an appeal."
Rowan Williams - Former Archbishop of Canterbury and now Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge.
Pope Benedict's last act before retirement was to order an unprecedented international televised exposition of the Shroud. My speculation is that it was his way of acknowledging that the C14 process had been handled badly.
The biggest Shroud event in the UK is currently held annually during the Jalsa Salana of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which hosts Shroud scholars from around the world.
Left: Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad - Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - in discussion with Barrie Schwortz, founder and editor of shroud.com.
Left: Kirill, Patriarch of All Russia. Right: Pope Francis.
The Shroud of Turin is now formally under the direct ownership of the Vatican in Rome. If it is authentic then its provenance would make it one and the same as the most sacred relic of the Eastern Orthodox Church that disappeared from Constantinople in 1204 during the 4th Crusade. Could East and West share custody of the Shroud in the future? This would be a natural and most welcome symbolic progression once the question of authenticity is re-evaluated.