LA STAMPA - Saturday, August
10, 2002, page 15
The operation led secretly
from June 20 to July 22
The Shroud changes - Five-century-old
The Vatican: "Intervention
decided after the 2000 world-wide symposium."
According to the investigators
those seams could damage the sheet
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.