The Shroud,

Still a mystery.

On October 13, 1988, Cardinal Ballestero announced in Turin that the linen venerated for centuries by Catholics as the Shroud that wrapped the body of Jesus after His death was really a medieval fake manufactured between 1260 and 1390 A.D. These were the dates suggested by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson after radiocarbon tests were conducted on fragments of the cloth.

But not everybody is agreeing today, and most of them are scientists and not necessarily Catholics. "Carbon 14 tests arenít at all a safe evidence, " states Professor Savarino. "There are many well-known cases of a great difference between the real age indicated through carbon dating. This happened even more often when the items examined were contaminated through contact with the environment down through the centuries, namely sources of heat and bacterial contamination, that change the carbon content and therefore the Ďageí of the item. Textile fibres are especially at risk."

The real mystery is how the image was made. Nobody would be able to replicate it today, either. It is three-dimensional, not a painting, nor just an imprint of a bloody body. The fibres are not soaked through, but barely changed on the surface. Nor is it a burnt image created by contact with a heated metal bas-relief, as suggested by some. In fact, nobody ever saw much of an image in it until it was first photographed in 1898 and proved to be a negative print of a human body. The signs of martyrdom that go along with the Gospel story are only visible through a computerised three-dimensional process; and the presence of pollen from Palestinian plants was only found through complicated scientific examinations. Others examinations seemed to point at the imprint left on both eyelids by small coins minted "in the year 16 of the reign of Tiberius" between 29 and 30 A.D. How and why would a medieval forger fabricate clues that nobody in his day would be able to read?

A mystery, then. A scientist can only wonder. A man of faith can do as he wills. Somebody said that there is no middle of the road: "If itís a fake, then it is the work of a supernatural genius; if it is real then itís the sign of a supernatural Love." A Christian knows that his God, as the French philosopher Pascal said, is "a hidden God." Who gives "enough light for those that want to see, and enough darkness for those that choose not to see".