We might wonder who will be calling the shots and what will the take away message be for the Holy Saturday exhibition of the Shroud. I rather think Benedict 16 has decided that. Who can forget the 2010 headlines proclaiming the Shroud authentic and the Associated Press comment about Benedict’s attitude towards science on this matter. Contrast this with the statements of John Paul II on science and the Shroud.
Such a long time ago but thanks to Google we can find all this. One headline stands out in particular: “Pope Benedict says Shroud of Turin authentic burial robe of Jesus.” It was the headline for an article in the normally careful and judicious Christian Science Monitor on May 1, 2010. That was right after the pope’s visit to the exhibition of the shroud. The paper went on to say:
The Vatican, which owns the linen cloth, has in the past tiptoed around the issue, describing it as a potent symbol of Jesus Christ’s suffering but never asserting outright its authenticity. Pope John Paul II visited the Shroud when it last went on public display in 1998, but he said the Catholic Church had "no specific competence” to pronounce on its authenticity and urged further scientific analysis.
Benedict was much less equivocal on Sunday when he prayed in front of the cloth at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Turin, Italy, saying afterwards in a “meditation” that it was "an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified, and injured on his right side."
Other news outlets pulled their punches a bit. The AP story read:
TURIN, Italy – TURIN, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI all but gave an outright endorsement of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin on Sunday, calling the cloth that some believe is Christ’s burial shroud an icon "written with the blood" of a crucified man.
The AP story went on to say:
"This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus," Benedict said. He said the relic — one of the most important in Christianity— should be seen as a photographic document of the "darkest mystery of faith" — that of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
[. . . ]
"The Shroud of Turin offers us the image of how his body lay in the tomb during that time (of death); time that was brief chronologically — about a day and a half — but was immense, infinite in its value and significance," Benedict said.
But then we had this bit of a journalist’s interpretation:
Benedict’s meditation — delivered after he prayed as if in a trance before the shroud — appeared to imply that in the end it doesn’t matter what science says about its authenticity.
And that most inappropriate interpretation was published everywhere AP feeds are used from the New York Times to the Chattanooga Times. I’m not so much concerned about any take away message as I am about what some journalist tells us it is.