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Open Letter to Pope Francis: Time to Re-Test the Shroud

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
L' Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

Your Holiness,

Significant momentum is building for decisive action that will positively impact your church, all Christ-centered denominations, and the world. 


It’s time for 21st-century scientific testing on the Shroud of Turin.

Only you can authorize what will be a universally applauded decision that could also enhance your papal legacy.

Why should the Shroud be tested now? Articles from three international Catholic news sources provide the answer. 

National Catholic Register, August 5: “The Shroud of Turin Latest Study Deepens Mystery.” (Subhead: “Researchers cast doubt on the findings of the controversial 1988 study.”) 

Inside the Vatican, June/July issue (re-published from La Stampa newspaper):“‘The Shroud Is Not Medieval. We Need New Studies to Know Its Age.’”

Aleteia, July 22: “New data questions finding that Shroud of Turin was medieval hoax.” (Subhead: “Specialists hope to re-test the artifact which some believe to be an authentic relic of Christ's crucifixion.”)

The Aleteia article immediately followed my July 21, U.S.-based Townhall piece, “Shroud of Turin: New Test Concludes 1988 ‘Medieval Hoax’ Dating Was a Fraud.” The article spawned headlines on numerous Catholic and Protestant websites in addition to some secular ones.

Furthermore, a UK Guardian news report from June 21, 2015, illustrates a chronic problem that new Shroud testing could eliminate. Remember that day you were in Turin venerating the Shroud during its last public display? The story on your visit was headlined “Pope Francis praises Turin shroud as an ‘icon of love.’ ”


The first paragraph read:

“Pope Francis paused in silent prayer before the shroud of Turin on Sunday, following in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of people who have come this year to Turin’s cathedral to view the burial linen some believe covered the body of Jesus after crucifixion but others say is a medieval fake.” (Bold added for emphasis.)

The phrase “medieval fake” — often interchanged in the media with hoax, fraud or forgery — continuously disparages the Shroud. Maligning this “icon of love” stems from 1988 Vatican-authorized radiocarbon tests that concluded the mysterious cloth, with its unexplained image of a crucified man, dates from between 1260 -1390. 

However, that purported medieval timeframe — stemming from a small test-sample cut from the Shroud’s repaired outer corner, along with questionable research and reporting protocols — immediately ignited controversy among Shroud scientists and experts that has never abated.

Three decades later, through a 2017 legal request, French researcher Tristan Casabianca gained access to the 1988 raw data that was previously "unavailable.” After two years of studying the data, Casabianca and his team reported their results in March in the scholarly journal Archaeometry. Last month in an interview with the French publication L'Homme Nouveau, Casabianca said, “It is therefore impossible to conclude that the shroud of Turin dates from the Middle Ages.” 


Your Holiness, it is incumbent upon you to acknowledge the flawed 1988 conclusion that defamed the Shroud for 31 years by authorizing new 21st-century testing methods that will not damage or require cutting the cloth.

It is also imperative that we go back to 1978 — the first and last time the Vatican permitted hands-on examination of the Shroud by 40 scientists for The Shroud of Turin Research Project known as STURP

Utilizing 1970s state-of-the-art technology, STURP famously concluded that the Shroud’s linear front to back mirror image of a scourged, crucified man was “not the product of an artist.” The last sentence in the 1981 report read: “The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”

Your Holiness, “some scientists in the future” means now. 

An equally important argument for testing is faith in Jesus, about which I have written extensively.

You are aware that the church is experiencing a decline in membership, most notably in Western Europe and America. Meanwhile, the Vatican never utilizes the Shroud for evangelization purposes. It should, however, because millions of Catholics and other Christians believe that the cloth provides foundational evidence for faith in Jesus — compatible with the Gospel accounts that He lived, suffered, died and was resurrected. 


I have been told while visiting Vatican City that, broadly speaking, Vatican authorities believe evidence of His existence is not necessary for faith in Christ. And I would argue that this is the case for only the strongest believers. But, do you believe that the Shroud’s survival to this day is only a coincidence? In my writings, I have equated the cloth’s existence to a “Doubting Thomas” moment for those requiring physical proof.

Similar to the Apostle Thomas, who insisted on placing his fingers in Christ’s wounds before he would believe, people today — especially the unchurched and the young — would welcome the latest scientific evidence about Jesus that only new Shroud testing could provide.

As Mark Antonacci, respected Shroud expert and author of "Test the Shroud,” told me, “New technologies could not only answer every outstanding question regarding the Shroud but confirm the most critical event in human history.”

Finally, since I was born and raised Jewish before converting to Christianity in 1976, and later married into the Catholic Church, proving the authenticity of the Shroud is a personal mission. This mission has led me to spearhead an effort for a groundbreaking high-tech exhibition about the Shroud at the prestigious Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. 

Pending the museum securing $2.5 million in funding, the exhibition is targeted to open in early January 2021. As proposed, my team and other leading Shroud experts believe that this unique exposition, exploring a mysterious male image on a linen cloth with the latest display technology, could positively impact the world. 


It would be even more impactful if you were to authorize new testing in conjunction with the exposition, to which you are cordially invited. Then you could also view the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Treasures From the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library” — a testament to the institution’s well-established working relationship with the Vatican.

Ultimately, to quote leading Shroud expert and exhibit team member Russ Breault:

“The Shroud of Turin is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated, or it is a deliberate and purposeful sign from God.”

Holy Father, for that overarching reason, I respectfully ask that you authorize 21st-century testing on the Shroud of Turin. 

In His Name,

Myra Adams

Executive Director

Adviser to the Shroud Exhibit

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