By Marco Levytsky

A Vatican-approved replica of the Shroud of Turin was officially opened for solemn exposition at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton, March 3.

It will stay in the cathedral until Holy Friday and Holy Saturday, April 18 and 19.

The shroud, which is believed to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, is kept in a cathedral in the Italian city of Turin. It is usually exposed for veneration every 10 years and is almost never taken outside the confines of the city itself.

There are, however, Vatican-approved and authenticated copies of the shroud that are sent out to various parts of the world to allow access to a more general public, eager to venerate it or simply interested in viewing it.

This one was gifted to the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton by the Archdiocese of Turin as part of its 25 Year Pastoral Plan for Spiritual Growth and Renewal.

The ceremony began with a solemn procession from St. Josaphat’s Parish Hall to the Cathedral by members of the clergy and may organizations of the Eparchy of Edmonton.

Once it was placed for display in the cathedral, Bishop David (Motiuk) gave a brief presentation.

The shroud is a rectangular linen sheet woven in a herringbone pattern according to an ancient Egyptian style used both before and after the time of Christ, he noted

“There is a faint impression on it of an image of a man, front and back, indicating that he suffered extensive scourging and death by crucifixion. Piercing of the feet and wrist are clearly evident. A chest wound and wounds to the head inflicted by pointed instruments are plainly visible.

“The ‘man of the shroud’ has a beard, moustache and shoulder length hair parted in the middle. He is well-proportioned, muscular, and quite tall, said Bishop David

“Is the Shroud of Turin the burial cloth of Jesus?” he continued.

“Scientific analysis of the Shroud of Turin was permitted by the Holy See in 1976, 1978 and 1988. These conclude that the image is not the product of an artist using paints or dyes. The shroud has been in direct contact with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks and blood. But it cannot explain the image of the face with the high resolution demonstrated by photography.

“How the image was produced remains a mystery.

“While the Catholic Church has neither acknowledged nor denied the authenticity of the shroud, Pope John Paul II called it a “mirror of the Gospel.” Recently, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis described the shroud as an “icon.”

“Actual burial cloth or not, the shroud is indeed an ancient and greatly venerated icon. And the essence of an icon is its representation of the Holy and participation in the Divine,” Bishop David noted

Picking up on Pope John Paul II’s reference to the shroud as a “mirror of the Gospel,” Bishop David then examined the scriptural evidence noting:

• The body in the shroud is covered with severe scourge wounds, as many as 120 on the back (including the legs). Whipping was done probably by a Roman flagrum, with evidence that there were two men whipping from two angles.

• Jesus was struck a blow to the face (Matthew 27: 30). In the shroud there is severe swelling below the right eye; the nose is swollen or broken.

• Jesus was “crowned” with thorns (Matthew 27: 28-29). In the shroud there is evidence of bleeding from scalp, and thorn fragments.

• Jesus had to carry a heavy cross (John 19: 16-17). Shoulder wounds appear on the body in the shroud.

• Jesus’ cross had to be carried for him after a while (Matthew 27: 32). The knees in the body in the shroud appear to be severely damaged as if from repeated falls.

• Jesus was crucified by nailing hands and feet (John 20: 25). There are clear blood flows on the shroud from nail wounds in the wrists and feet.

• Jesus’ legs were not broken, but a spear was thrust into his side (John 19: 33-37). The legs on the body in the shroud are not broken. There is an elliptical wound on the rights side between the 5th and 6th ribs and appears to have been inflicted by a Roman lance.

• Jesus was taken down from the cross and wrapped in a linen shroud (Matthew 27: 57-60). The image on the shroud is consistent with the Jewish burial practice of wrapping a dead body.

Following the bishop’s presentation, Meditation Leader Roman Krawec expanded on it noting that a 1988 study which concluded, using Carbon 14 dating, that the shroud could not have originated before 1325 was inaccurate because it used textile samples from the corner of the Shroud that were later proven to have been repaired during the middle ages using a cotton fibre with an invisible mending technique.

Evidence that supports it includes the fact that there is no paint on the shroud, but blood, and it has been discovered to be a photographic negative. This has led to its description as an “Icon Not Made With Human Hands”.

The shroud originated in the Christian East. According to a written manuscript, King Agbar of Edessa (a city in modern-day Turkey) was healed of disease by touching this cloth.

It was hidden during pagan persecution, resurfaced in the 6th century, but soon after Edessa was captured by the Muslims. When a Byzantine general surrounded Edessa during a 944 campaign he made a deal with the Muslims to spare the city in return for the shroud which was then transferred to Constantinople.

It was stolen by western Crusaders when they sacked the Byzantine capital in 1204, resurfaced in France in 1353 and arrived in Turin in 1578, where it remains to this day.

“All of us who come to view the Shroud of Turin have our own life story. Some are broken, some are confused, some are professed unbelievers, some need to have their faith affirmed, and some are seeking to follow the Lord more closely,” said Bishop David

Whatever your story, God’s tremendous love for us is shown through the passion of Jesus, who alone offers us the gift of salvation and eternal life. It is this love that is graphically illustrated for us on the shroud.

Before the shroud today, and each day of your life, enter into the silence of your heart. Lay aside all cares of daily life and recognize that God seeks to tell you that you are loved. Be still and know that God is real; God is present. Let your hearts be moved by the immensity of Jesus’ love as is plainly made visible on the shroud before you,” he added.