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Sunday, 24 May, 1998, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Pope's 'open mind' on Turin shroud
Pope John Paul II prays before the yellowing shroud
Pope John Paul II prays before the yellowing shroud
The Pope has said scientists should try to keep an open mind as they try to unravel the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, the ancient yellowing linen that many Christians believe wrapped the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.

The Pope was speaking from Turin cathedral in northern Italy, where the shroud is kept. He is one of more than a million people who have been to view the relic since it was put on display five weeks ago.

The Pope referred to its mysterious fascination, but said the Church could not pronounce on its authenticity.

Unravelling the mystery of the cloth

The linen shroud, which used to belong to the Italian royal family, but is now the property of the Pope, measures just over four metres long by just over one metre wide.

It is woven in a herring bone pattern and bears the ghostly imprint of a bearded man with apparent wounds to his hands and feet.

But scientists who carried out extensive radioactive carbon tests on fragments of the shroud in 1988 dated it to the 13th century, suggesting it was a medieval fake.

However, they have not been able to explain the wounds, which fit Gospel descriptions of Christ's wounds suffered before and during his crucifixion.

See also:

17 Apr 98 | Europe
A shroud of doubt
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