The Shroud of Turin in the Wall Street Journal

There is a haunting “Godong via Getty Image” photograph of the “Details of the Shroud of Turin” in the Wall Street Journal. I think the photograph may actually be a cut and paste from a reproduction (below) of the shroud’s face in the Chiesa Della Ss. Annunziata Church in Turin which is sold as a poster in gift shops around town.  It may also be ordered as a poster, T-shirt or tote bag from  And here is a good copy of that cut and paste at the Huffington Post, which captions it correctly.

The Wall Street Journal’s Vatican reporter, Francis X. Rocca, yesterday, filed a perspective on the upcoming exhibition of the shroud, An Ancient Shroud and an Eternal Debate: The display of Turin’s famed relic begins Sunday. He writes:

When the Shroud of Turin goes on display Sunday for the first time in five years, it will revive a long-running debate as to whether it is a medieval fabrication or—as Catholic devotees have believed for centuries—the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

But that debate raises the larger question of why Catholics venerate the shroud—and countless other relics.

The fervor surrounding each display of the shroud testifies to the power such relics command in the church. More than a million people have already reserved a free ticket for an up-close view of the shroud, which will be displayed until June 24. Visitors will file past the shroud for 12 hours a day, and about a fifth of the available dates are sold out.


Such veneration inevitably gave rise to a market in relics, some of them dubious, such as the head of St. John the Baptist—as a child. For centuries, pilgrims to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome thought they were venerating a “Veil of Veronica” that the Vatican today acknowledges is a copy.


In the case of the Shroud of Turin, the church does not take a stance as to whether it is authentic or not, leaving that question to scientists and historians. The results of carbon-14 tests in 1988 suggested the shroud was no older than the 13th century, but other experts have since suggested that the fabric tested may have been contaminated by centuries of handling. No one has been able to duplicate the image on the shroud or to explain how it was produced.

When Pope John Paul II visited the shroud in 1998, he acknowledged disagreements about its history and actual connection to Jesus. “Since it is not a matter of faith, the church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions,” John Paul said.

7 thoughts on “The Shroud of Turin in the Wall Street Journal”

  1. Actually, a better and more accurate quote by John Paul II was, “The Holy Shroud is the most splendid relic of the Passion and Resurrection.”

  2. “Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions.” (From the translation of “Pastoral Visit of His Holiness John Paul II to Vercelli and Turin (Italy) May 23-24, 1998). You can’t get more accurate than that.

    1. JP2 did say that the “Church” (i.e., Vatican so-called scientists) has no specific competence to pronounce.

      But JP2’s comment re: “The Holy Shroud is the most splendid relic of the Passion and Resurrection” stands as an Absolute on the matter. He can pronounce the Truth as he sees it, while a bunch of Vatican bureaucrats are indeed incapable.

      The Cardinal’s Scientific Advisor in the matter of the C-14 testing did such a “great job” of advising on the science, didn’t he? Ha.

  3. Does anyone look @ the “photo” of Jesus” & not see him as a European? This doesn’t tell all that It isn’t the face of a Middle Eastern man, whom Jesus was. How is it that Christians still want him to look European?

    1. Have you seen Roman first-century depictions of Israelites, such as Josephus? Have you seen Agemian’s portrait of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin? What the heck do you think 1st Century Israelites looked like?

    2. Edith, go to google images and type in Bashar al-Ja’afari. He is the Syrian ambassador to the UN. Notice his features.

      Now imagine a photographic negative of Bashar. He too would look European.

      The Shroud is a negative image and is not representative of Jesus’ complexion, more than likely olive, just as is the case with most middle-easterners.


      1. Angel, I’d like to know your basis for saying Christ’s complexion was “more than likely olive”. I haven’t seen depictions of First Century Jews that would back that up. Attempts to equate today’s Middle-Easterners with First Century Jews is misguided at best.

        It doesn’t appear to me that Roman depictions of Flavius Josephus (a.k.a. Joseph ben Matityahu in Hebrew) could be considered olive-complected. Thomas Heaphy’s book, (1880), The Likeness of Christ, shows early drawings / paintings from the catacombs of Rome, dated First or Second Century which show Christ and the Apostles with normal whitish faces, and certainly not olive.

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