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There are many mysteries attached the the Shroud of Turin. In fact, nothing is more mysterious. I remember when I visited its vault about twenty-five years ago (before its most recent displays) I was literally brought to my knees by a force that sent the most powerful and complete prayer I have ever prayed through me just feet away from the concealed relic.

I don't need radiocarbon dating to tell me what occurred there.

Such dating is inherently unreliable -- especially because the Shroud has been through fires -- and the most fundamental question remains unexplained: how did the image get there?

No one can come close to answering that. The image was inflected by some unknown force on just the topmost portion of the fibers. There is no drawing or pigment or anything physical to explain what the image is.

If as some skeptics have tried to claim it's a medieval European forgery, one must also ask how it can be that under a microscope the Shroud has been found to harbor pollen indigenous only to ancient Jerusalem; we must also inquire, as at Guadalupe, how this piece of linen has survived so long. Skeptics additionally have to explain how a forger so many centuries ago could have anticipated discovery of photography (for it was only in photographic negatives that the details of the Face and Body were first noted).

Beyond the skeptics, there are also mysteries for those who believe. Prime among those: is the Shroud the same thing as the legendary Veil of Veronica?

There are those like the investigative journalist Ian Wilson who have argued and convincingly that for centuries, the Shroud was folded in such a way that only the Face was visible (and very vaguely, before photography, at that). The "veil" is also called the sudarium (sweat cloth) or mandylion (while the Shroud is a burial linen known as the Santa Sindone).

According to the legend, King Abgar of Edessa wrote to Jesus, asking him to come cure him of an illness. Abgar received an answering letter from Jesus, declining the invitation, but promising a future visit by one of his disciples, notes one source. "This legend was first recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa, but who makes no mention of an image. Instead, the Apostle "Thaddaeus" is said to have come to Edessa, bearing the words of Jesus, by the virtues of which the king was miraculously healed." (This is why you see images of Jude holding the Face of Jesus).

We are talking about relics that have appeared and disappeared and reappeared through the ages.

No one knows if they are connected. Author Paul Badde, in a more recent book, The True Icon, argues that the Shroud and "veil" or cloth used to wipe sweat from the Face of the Lord are two separate and still existent items [see light from church that held the Holy Face in Manoppello in the Abruzzi hills, left, whereas the Shroud is in the large Italian city of Torino or "Turin"]. The Manoppello veil has a clear image of Jesus. Others site a piece of cloth in Oviedo, Spain (top right) likewise identified as the sweat cloth. This one looks more like the Shroud.

Which are real? Might they all be relics attached to miracles? Was not a "napkin" or facial cloth mentioned in John along with a burial linen?

Now here is a further mystery:

The man responsible for calling attention to the Manaoppello veil, a Capuchin priest named Domenico da Cese (1905-1978, right), turns out to also have been a stigmatic -- a priest with the wounds of Jesus!

While many are familiar with the famous stigmatic priest Padre Pio, few realize there was another around the same time in this same nation.

He had been sent to Manoppello by his order and there fell in complete devotion to the purported image [left] -- the sudarium or veil, whatever you want to label it -- praying day and night in front of it. "The records already show ten well-documented miracles resulting from his intercession," writes Badde. He is up for beatification. A few years ago, as a result of his work, Pope Benedict visited Manoppello.

"Because he had a prophetic premonition that the face of Manoppello and the dead Man on the Shroud of Turin were one of the same, he had set out on September 12, 1978, from the Abruzzi hills to Turin to the next-to-last exhibition of the Shroud in the last century," writes Badde. "On the morning of September 13, he visited for the first time in his life the image of his Lord on the Santa Sindone. That afternoon he went once again to a church, and that evening, while crossing the Via Paola Braccini, he was struck less than a meter from the curb by a speeding Fiat 500. Four days later, he died." A tragedy. Or simply the end of his mission.

As for the relics. Back to them:

Are they separate cloths or not?

It is a mystery for the ages.

-- Michael H. Brown

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