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Pope Prays Before Shroud of Turin

Sunday, 02 May 2010 08:48 PM


TURIN - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed before the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, which he described as an "icon written with blood".

The shroud "speaks with blood, and blood is life," the 83-year-old pope said in a "meditation" on the cloth displayed in Turin's St John the Baptist Cathedral for the first time in a decade.

The mysterious cloth, which bears a faint image that many believe to be of Jesus, "is an icon written with blood, the blood of a man who was whipped, crucified and wounded in the right rib," the pope said after spending about four minutes kneeling in silent prayer before the shroud.

"Every trace of blood speaks of love and life," the pontiff added in the meditation delivered to clergy involved in organising the display.

The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the shroud -- one of the most revered objects in Christendom and also one of the most disputed -- and the pontiff purposely referred to it as an "icon" and not a "relic".

Noting that this was the first time he had seen the shroud as pope, Benedict said: "As the successor of Peter, I carry in my heart the entire Church, actually all of humanity."

The length of linen, over four metres (15 feet) long, was framed in red drapery and backlit behind bulletproof glass to provide the best possible view.

Earlier Sunday some 25,000 pilgrims filled Turin's Piazza San Carlo for an open-air mass during which Benedict said the shroud "eloquently reminds us always" of Jesus' suffering.

The mysterious linen "mirrors our suffering in the suffering of Christ."

The pope, beset in recent months by paedophile priest scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Europe and the Americas, later prayed to the Virgin Mary to "watch over pastors... so that they be the 'salt and light' (of the Earth) in society's midst."

He later returned to Piazza San Carlo for an encounter with young people, urging them to make "definitive choices... that give full meaning to existence."

The Shroud of Turin was discovered in the French city of Troyes, southeast of Paris, in the mid-14th century.

No one has come up with a scientific explanation for the image, and no one has managed to replicate it.

Radiocarbon dating analysis in 1988 determined that the fibres in the cloth date from the Middle Ages, sometime between 1260 and 1390, but those findings have been challenged with suggestions the samples were contaminated.

Some two million people are expected to view the shroud over six weeks that began on April 10 in this northern Italian city.

The showing is the first since the shroud was painstakingly restored in 2002, with the removal of patches and a backing cloth that were added after a fire damaged it in 1532.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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