Religious relics inspire faith - religious studies expert

Morning Talk 19/07/2018
Photo credit: File.

A new high-tech forensic study of the blood flows on the Shroud of Turin, the mysterious linen some Christians believe is Jesus' burial cloth, is the latest analysis to suggest that it is most likely a medieval fake.

The results of the investigation, in which scientists used a volunteer and a mannequin and employed sophisticated techniques such as Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (BPA), were published in the latest edition of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Religious studies professor, Peter Lineham, says this latest development in the story of the Shroud of Turin is likely to add to the story rather than clear up the mystery.

“It’s a most fascinating story, because its 650 year of mystery surrounds it with endless speculation of who may have [made the shroud].

“This latest claim is just another stage, I suspect, in the long, long story of whodunit,” he told RadioLIVE’s Mark Sainsbury.

It is said, that there was enough samples of the true cross in medieval Europe to have made up a complete forest.

Professor Lineham says stories of the Shroud’s miraculous nature have developed more in the scientific age than in the middle-ages.

“[Relics] have been hugely popular in the, especially Catholic, approaches to religion.

“I think the role that they played was to inspire faith, that you would see this object. It would help you to mediate or enter the experience of the person.”

He says fake relics have a long history.

“It is said, for example, that there was enough samples of the true cross in medieval Europe to have made up a complete forest.

“The manufacture of fake relics was an incredible thing, probably similar to the way in which we see fake Gucci products.”

The Roman Catholic Church has not taken an official position on the authenticity of cloth, which bears an image, reversed like a photographic negative, of a man with the wounds of a crucifixion.

Professor Lineham says there are relics of New Zealand prophets such as Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, held at Ratana, near Whanganui.

“If you go to Ratana Pa, it’s the most fascinating place to visit. It’s evolved over the years, but the heart of it is the house, where they have the most remarkable relics to the work of Ratana.

“When Ratana first appeared in 1919, crowds of Maori began massing to him, and as he touched them, they were healed from all sorts of illness, especially those, that after the influenza epidemic were paralyzed in one way or another.

“At Ratana Pa [is, at] my guess about 50 pairs of crutches of people who were able to start walking and who disposed of their crutches, because he’d healed them.

“There’s a lot of evidence that those crutches were genuine [that people] genuinely did get up  and began walking again, and the enormous power of faith.”

Listen to the full interview with Professor Peter Lineham and Shroud expert Russ Breault above.

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