Catholic Free Press

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Encounter explores the mystery of the Shroud

Posted By March 22, 2012 | 1:15 pm | Lead Story #3

By Laura Lambert
CFP Correspondent

Russ Breault, president of Shroud Encounter, has dedicated his life to drawing people into dialogue about the Shroud of Turin, an artifact which is shrouded in mystery and conspiracy. In keeping with his mission, “to advance knowledge of the shroud to a new generation,” Mr. Breault focuses much of his attention on college communities.  He visited Assumption College on March 14 to offer a synthesis of historical and scientific data through a multimedia presentation which incorporates 150 photographed images.
“The shroud is a fabulous mystery that goes to the core of Christianity,” he said, “which represents the life death and resurrection of Jesus.”  Mr. Breault intimated his own excitement concerning the potential for people to be in possession of the burial shroud of Jesus today.  “The ark of the covenant is covered by dirt, but it’s possible that the shroud is only covered by mystery,” he said.
Throughout his presentation, Mr. Breault shared details which fought concerns that the Shroud was the work of an artist.  However, it has been copied by artists since the year 692 when, under the reign of Emperor Justinian II, two coins “were minted with an image of Christ and appear to be based on the Shroud image as indicated by 180 matching points of congruence between the Shroud image and the coin image” as stated both on the Shroud Encounter website and during the presentation.
Mr. Breault explained that the blood and water stains present on the Shroud soak through the cloth, but the image itself does not.  “The image penetrates only the top two microfibers.  Each thread has 200 microfibers,” he said.  “That means that the image penetrates less than one percent of the cloth.”  He compared this to the skin of an onion which is one thousand times thicker than the image on the burial cloth.
Furthermore, no “cementing” of the fibers, normally present in paintings, has been found on the Shroud.  In essence, he claimed that the Shroud could not have been created by hand because the detail is too fine even for a highly experienced artist.  This is particularly true, he explains, because the image is made up of carbohydrates not present in paint or other artistic substances.
Mr. Breault also discussed carbon-dating which for years has been used as reason to call the shroud a hoax.  He quoted Ray Rogers, a thermal chemist, who was published in a peer-reviewed journal after testing material from the original carbon-dated samples against samples from the “interior” of the Shroud.  Mr. Breault read, “The radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin.  The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the Shroud.”
Mr. Rogers’ research, according to Mr. Breault, proves that the sample taken for carbon-dating was part of a Medieval mend.
Whatever the true nature of the Shroud, it continues to stand as a symbol for the Catholic community of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.
Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College, discussed the importance of the Shroud as a symbol.      “Though we can’t know with complete certainty, there’s enough evidence that the cloth points to an important image that can allow an individual to come to a spiritual understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ,” he said.  “It points to the mystery of faith and can sustain faith.”
Mr. Breault’s presentation of both facts and mystery helped attendees in their own searches for truth.
“The presentation put a better perspective on controversy,” said Assumption College senior Matt Robinson, who is also a member of the Campus Ministry Core Team.  “Everything he [Breault] said was supported and helped to solidify my faith.”
James Rizza, campus minister and chairman of the Faith and Culture Dialogue Committee at the college,  stated that the presentation “incorporated faith and culture and supports the reasonableness of faith.  Breault looks at this religious symbol from an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating art, science, history and theology.”
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