On the occasion of the public exposition of the Holy Shroud in May of 1988, the saint John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Turin to contemplate “one of the most unsettling signs of the Redeemer’s suffering love.”
As I entered the cathedral which still shows the scars of last year’s terrible fire—he stated in his address—I paused in adoration before the Eucharist, the sacrament which is the focus of the Church’s attention and which contains under humble appearance the true, real, and substantial presence of Christ. In the light of Christ’s presence in our midst, I then stopped before the Shroud, the precious Linen that can help us better to understand the mystery of the love of God’s Son for us. Before the Shroud, the intense and agonizing image of an unspeakable torment, I wish to thank the Lord for this unique gift, which asks for the believer’s loving attention and complete willingness to follow the Lord.
The Shroud as a challenge to our intelligence
First of all, it requires of every person, particularly the researcher, that he humbly grasp the profound message it conveys to his reason and his life. The mysterious fascination of the Shroud forces questions to be raised about the sacred Linen and the historical life of Jesus. Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of our Redeemer after He had been taken down from the cross. The Church urges that the Shroud be studied without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology and the sensibilities of believers.