Some days ago the news leaked out from surroundings near the Turinese Curia, whose archbishop, Cardinal Severino Poletto, is the official Custodian of the relic on behalf of the Holy See; it has provoked polemics because of the secret that would have surrounded the operation. The Turinese Curia retort: "There is no mystery. The restoration already carried out and the analyses which will be carried out in the future are led in total agreement with the Holy See and on the basis of the indications emerged from the 2000 world-wide symposium, which took place in Turin in March 2000."
"Since the Sixties," specifies Gian Maria Zaccone, the Shroud Museum Guardian, who has collaborated on the Shroud's restoration, "scholars had explained that it would have been better to keep the Shroud extended and not rolled up in the precious case in which it has been kept for centuries." In fact, in this way numerous folds had occurred on the sheet. The last symposium has started the operation definitively; the latter has been completed in two years. "Yes," adds Zaccone, who had had the opportunity to see the Shroud in its "new" version. "Today its aspect is quite different from the one we were accustomed to and the believers could admire in the last two exhibitions, in 1998 and in 2000.
A month ago the most important intervention was completed by Mechtild Flury-Lemberg, Swiss, an expert in textile restorations and a member of the Commission for the Shroud conservation. The sheet, 4.37 m long and 1.11 m wide, has been moved from the new case in the Cathedral of Turin, in the church left transept. There, first Flury-Lemberg replaced the "Holland cloth," which the Shroud had been sewn for more than 500 years, then she removed and sewed again some thirty darns and patches, the work of the Clare nuns, but also of later and less accurate interventions; she did it in order to make the darns and the patches less visible, but, above all, the experts explain, "because, during the past centuries, the sheet, however in good condition, has undergone many vicissitudes and the extended position provoked new static and mechanical problems." Not a make-up, then, but a recovery and conservation operation. "We need to think of the Shroud also as a hand-made item, which, as such," Zaccone explains, "needs these interventions."
The results of the restoration will be illustrated to the press and also documented photographically in mid-September. Then new studies will begin in order to try to solve the mystery of the sheet; the Vatican is considering many of the proposals put forward by the scientists. There are three main directions: two scientific ones, to understand the linen age (many question the 14C analyses, which put it in the Medieval Age) and the mechanism by which the image was printed on the sheet, and a historical one, to understand when the Shroud, first mentioned in Lirey, close to Troyes, in France, in 1356, really appeared.