Mark Shea, in an article, “Relics: Grace Working Through Matter,” in the Catholic Exchange offers up an interesting perspective on the significance of the Shroud of Turin:
Perhaps the most famous relic in the world, at present, is the Shroud of Turin, which is currently available for public viewing at the Cathedral in Turin. Believed by many (including this author) to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, it contain the strange photographic negative image of a naked man who had endured exactly the sufferings described in the New Testament account of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Dubious Carbon-14 tests by scientists eager to prove the Shroud a fraud have yielded predictably dubious results. Meanwhile, nobody can really account for the image, nor for the fact that fossil pollen shows that the Shroud has been in the Middle East. If it is a medieval forgery, it is utterly unique and was never duplicated. And if it is a real image dating from the time of Jesus, but is actually the image of some other person, it’s a coincidence that boggles the mind. Strangest of all, of course, is the fact that the image is a negative and that nobody was able to see the positive image until the invention of photography, which is an awfully weird aid to devotion for a pious medieval artist.
The Church, as is her custom, pronounces no definitive judgment on the Shroud. If it is proven to be a human artifact then that’s that. But the rumors of the Shroud’s death are greatly exaggerated by an anti-Catholic culture with a polemical need to downplay the possibility that You Know Who might have done an extraordinary miracle in witness to the Resurrection.
The Shroud falls somewhat betwixt and between in terms of how to classify it. It has bloodstains on it, meaning that, if genuine, we are looking at the actual blood of Jesus Christ himself: the same blood that takes away the sins of the world. On the other hand, it could also be described as a second class relic since it is, in a unique way, the most important piece of cloth ever worn by a human being, testifying to the conquest of Christ over the power of death in the instant of his Resurrection.
The Shroud, if genuine, is perhaps the Relic of Relics, because of its intimate connection to the very body and blood of Jesus himself. Most relics are more remote from the Epicenter who is Christ, but are still vitally connected to him by faith.