The Shroud of Turin will make its first television appearance in 40 years on Easter Sunday as part of a special broadcast the Vatican calls retired Pope Benedict XVI's parting gift to the Roman Catholic church.
The shroud's last appearance was in 1973, at the order of Pope Paul VI. It's normally kept in a climate-controlled casket at the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
The linen cloth that bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man is widely contested by scientists who claim it is nothing more than medieval forgery. Catholics widely believe, however, that the piece of fabric was used to bury Jesus Christ's body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago.
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The shroud's slated television spot comes as new claims about its authenticity surface. Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, recently used infrared light and spectroscopy to analyze fibers from the fabric. The tests confirmed that the linen does indeed date back to Christ's lifetime.
These findings contradict previous tests performed in 1988 by other scientists, which determined the shroud was a fake. Fanti says those experiments were false because of laboratory contamination. His results are detailed in his new book, "Il Mistero della Sindone" or "The Mystery of the Shroud," written with journalist Saverio Gaeta.
The Vatican has never issued a public opinion on the authenticity of the shroud, but Benedict came close when he called it "a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing," when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Those interested in learning more about the shroud can download the Shroud 2.0 mobile app
, designed in collaboration with the Museum of the Holy Shroud and the Archdiocese of Turin. The app offers 1,649 high-definition photographs synthesized into a single 12-billion-pixel image. It's available starting Good Friday.
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