WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
While there are thousands of photographic reproductions of the Shroud of Turin, the Shroud on display in Edmonton is unique in that it is among only a handful of reproductions authorized by the Archdiocese of Turin, Italy, the custodians of the original Shroud.
Ed Hecker, a retired teacher, visited the actual Shroud of Turin in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in northern Italy. He could not get close or even take photographs, so it was not as compelling as he had hoped.
The replica is on public display March 4 to April 10 at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, 10825-97 St.
Visitors can view the Shroud on Tuesdays and Thursday, from 4 to 9 p.m., with brief presentations by Hecker at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Every Sunday, it is displayed from 1 to 4 p.m. with an in-depth presentation at 2 p.m. Admission is a food bank donation.
As well, starting on Holy Friday (April 18), an all-night vigil is planned from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. the next day.
Also on display is a black-and-white negative, which Hecker said shows a much clearer image than the natural sepia colour. The image reveals a man's face, with a beard, moustache and shoulder-length hair parted in the middle.
He is well-proportioned, muscular and tall. Based on the image, the man was about six feet tall, and between 170 to 180 pounds.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Unlike when people visit the original Shroud of Turin in Italy, visitors who come to see the replica of the Shroud at Edmonton's St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral can get up close and personal.
Hecker said when a person has been crucified, the dead man's face will always show agony, yet the face on the Shroud seems more at peace.
Bishop David Motiuk petitioned the Archdiocese of Turin to have an authorized replica come to Edmonton. The initiative is in connection with the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy's 25-Year Plan of Spiritual Growth and Renewal.
"Bishop David felt this would be a very good instrument for evangelizing, affirming people's faith, and perhaps bringing the doubters a little further along, or just the curious to some deeper understanding of our Lord's sacrifice," said Father Stephen Wojcichowsky, vicar general and chancellor of the eparchy.
The replica is the same size as the original Shroud - a rectangular linen sheet measuring 442 cm long by 113 cm wide. There is a faint impression on it of an image of a man, front and back, indicating that he suffered extensive scourging and death by crucifixion. Piercings of the feet and wrist are clearly evident.
"We're not saying this is in fact the burial cloth of our Lord because the Catholic Church has not pronounced on this one way or the other," said Wojcichowsky. "But still it is an ancient icon, and we in the East have a great reverence for icons."
The Catholic Church has neither acknowledged nor denied the authenticity of the Shroud, but Pope John Paul II called it a "mirror of the Gospel." Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis described the Shroud as an "icon."
Motiuk said all who come to view the Shroud have their own story. Some are broken, some are confused, others are professed unbelievers and a few are seeking to follow the Lord more closely.
Regardless of our individual stories, God's love for us is shown through the passion of Jesus, the bishop said.
"It is this love that is graphically illustrated for us on the Shroud," said Motiuk who, after seeing a replica at a cathedral in Philadelphia, thought it would be marvellous to bring a replica to Alberta.
"Many people through television, newspapers and the Internet have heard about the Shroud of Turin. It immediately evokes a childlike curiosity. Is it really the burial cloth of Jesus? What's this thing all about?" asked Motiuk.
This curiosity leads to an invitation from the eparchy to come and see.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Was it the crucified Christ who was buried in the Shroud? The Catholic Church has no official answer to that question.
"When we look at the Shroud, we can see humanity, someone identifying with humanity and suffering," said Motiuk.
"It's not so much a God who's in the sky, so far away and out of reach. We can identify with the person in the Shroud who was crucified. We can identify with Jesus who identifies with us."
With the same childlike curiosity Motiuk spoke of, Janet Linge went to see the Shroud March 13. Upon leaving the church, she said, "I think everyone is interested in the Shroud of Turin. It's mediaeval, it's prophetic and it's unanimously wonderful."
Also visiting the Shroud was Theresa Thompson, who said, "The chances of getting to Turin are slim to nil for most people. Even if you get to Turin, you're only allowed 20 feet from the Shroud, so this is the closest we'll ever be able to get to it."
Thompson said there will always be skeptics, but the skeptics still would not believe even if shown books full of evidence. In the end, it's the gift of faith that draws people.
For her, seeing the Shroud is a direct reminder of the suffering that Jesus went through for humanity, so she said she cannot help but feel grateful.
Scientific analysis of the Shroud of Turin was permitted by the Holy See in 1976, 1978 and 1988. How the image was produced remains a mystery, although it's conclusive that no paints or dyes were used.
As well, scientists found traces of spices, soil and plant life that could only be found in Jerusalem.
"You must have that wonder in the awesomeness. There is no explanation for the image on it," said Thompson. "Modern science can't figure out the image. You gaze on this awesomeness, and you believe because of your gift of faith.
"Some might say it was just some poor schlepp that was murdered, but our faith says this was Jesus Christ."