LA STAMPA - Saturday, August 10, 2002, page 15

The operation led secretly from June 20 to July 22
The Shroud changes - Five-century-old patches eliminated
The Vatican:  "Intervention decided after the 2000 world-wide symposium."
According to the investigators those seams could damage the sheet
Francesca PACI

The Shroud has been restored.  The diocese of Turin admits the silent removal of the thirty patches sewn on the sheet after the 1532 fire in the "Sainte Chapelle", but it specifies that "the intervention has been led in total agreement with the Holy See and on the basis of the indications emerged from the 2000 world-wide symposium".  From Rome they confirm.  The Secretariat of State declares they have guaranteed "the quick procedure in virtue of the absolute trust the Cardinal Severino Poletto enjoys." The Vatican knew, so did the sindonologists for the relic conservation. According to the director of the Curia weekly magazine "La Voce del Popolo", Marco Bonatti, "there is no mystery".  The Commission knew "and supplied studies and advice on what to do". Intentionally anonymous sources reveal that the first idea to eliminate the "patches," sewn on the linen by the Chambéry Clare nuns, came just from there, from the scientific community.  It was suggested, four or five years ago, by the chemist Alan Adler, Professor at the American University of the New England, who recently died, when he was a member of the same group of scholars as Mechtild Flury-Lemberg, the Swiss textile expert, who carried out last July restoration.  The history begins in March 2000.  Forty investigators from all over the world arrive in Turin in order to discuss about the Shroud.  There is the preservation problem of the nearly-five-century-old linen, the "photocopied" image of the face and the naked body thought to be Jesus', the trace of the side wound, escaped December 4, 1532 flames by few centimeters. The encounter produces the Proceedings, published in the following months, the speeches program signed by the Archdiocese, and a two-page report addressed to Rome. The Vatican approval is expected, "Cardinal Poletto's precaution enjoys the complete trust of Secretary Sodano, who supported his arrival in the Piedmontese chief town".  The Shroud is owned directly by the Pope, having been donated to him by the Savoy family. Since 1578 the Shroud has been in Turin, where the Duke Emanuele Filiberto carried it in order to shorten the pilgrimage of Saint Carlo Borromeo, who had to fulfill a vow, and is kept by the town archbishop, who, in this case, has got a free hand, "an exceptional delegation that would not be valid for others". Therefore, when last June 20 the "patches" removal operation begins, the Holy See is not there to follow the intervention.  The group, coordinated by Flury-Lemberg and protected in the shadow of the Cathedral new sacristy, goes on until July 22: unraveling the Clare nuns' patient and careful darn and replacing their Holland cloth with a new one meant more than a month of work. The sindologists had been studying on it for more than two years.  In 1998 the Commission for the conservation had decided to keep the sheet extended rather than rolled up, in order to avoid that the folds damaged the linen that, as the tradition goes, would have wrapped Jesus' body.  Marco Bonatti is convinced that the new restoration does not break off with the previous ones, "the aim is to eliminate the tension: those patches pulled the cloth."  The approach is scientific, the observation is a part of the method.  During the last intervention, for example, the "weavers" noticed some creases that "seemed caused by some drawing-pins."  It was an old story, that the Shroud Museum Guardian Gian Maria Zaccone already knew; "according to a report of the 1898 Exhibition the sheet could have been hung just with some drawing-pins."  A false alarm: the demonstration that "the monitoring has to be constant and coordinated".  The accusation that the Turinese diocese rejects is to have acted alone. Those who had to know, knew, the others would have had "news of the result in a press conference after the holidays".  The group of operating investigators, who is around the main icon of Christianity, defends him strongly.  Pierluigi Baima Bollone, former director of "Centro Internazionale di Sindonologia" and present member of the Commission for the conservation of the relic, does not comment:  "I have a engagement of confidentiality with the group I belong to."  The present director of the Institute of Studies Bruno Barberis cannot be reached, perhaps he has gone to Lourdes. The trusted photographer, Giancarlo Durante, who took the last images of the Shroud before the "patches" removal, has heard "rumors", but he would not be able to say more.  Severino Poletto, engaged in spiritual exercises outside Turin, through his own spokesman communicates that "in mid-September the intervention will be made known and documented photographically." However, it is useless to hope for a new exhibition before 2025.  Marco Bonatti damps the enthusiasms of those who have missed the 1998 and 2000 stream-pilgrimages, and are ready to take the news of the restoration as an occasion to take advantage of, perhaps in four years, among events and lay festivals for the Olympic Games.  "The indications of the diocese are not changed", cuts short the director of "La Voce del Popolo".  To see the restored Shroud there is a twenty-three-year-long queue.