During Melbourne's Days in the Dioceses, St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne, well known as one of the most beautiful and historic churches in the archdiocese, will be hosting two important exhibitions closely linked to each other.
The exhibition of images of Christ throughout the centuries, 'Jesus of Nazareth', which is to be located below the church (in the crypt), is very much linked to the exhibition of the Shroud of Turin in the school building next to the church. Both exhibitions, free of charge, will be a Melbourne contribution to the World Youth Day celebrations.
The connecting element for these exhibitions is the face of Jesus, so stunningly visible in the negative of a photograph taken of the Shroud of Turin. It was an unknown secret until accidentally discovered over one hundred years ago.
Since then the Shroud of Turin has constantly fascinated scientists of many disciplines working in laboratories and universities around the world as they continue to bring new facts to light and identify new questions raised by this ever-enigmatic ancient linen cloth.
Among the specialists involved in the research are many iconographers looking for similarities between the image on the Shroud and the many depictions of Jesus' face on the ancient mosaics, paintings and murals. Their comparisons of hundreds of icons with each other and with the Shroud's face have demonstrated that their model most likely has been the Shroud of Turin.
An interesting example of such research is an icon of 'The Christ Pantocrator' from St Catherine's monastery in Egypt, which was painted in the year 544AD. It is included among other pictures on display at the art exhibition in St Mary's church.
This particular icon was described by Mary and Alan Whanger, researchers well known for their use of polarised light for the analysis and comparison of icons, as the most accurate non-photographic depiction of the Shroud they have ever come across among the hundreds of icons they have examined.
The objective method used by the Whangers has enabled them to calculate points of congruence (PC) between the Shroud's face and that of the icon. The result was stunning - over 170 PC. According to forensic standards, 45 to 60 PC are enough to declare faces to be of the same person.
In Rome, during an audience with pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Turin on 2 June, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Shroud would go on public display in 2010, the first time this has occurred since the Jubilee Year 2000.
Benedict welcomed about 7,000 pilgrims from Turin, who had attended Mass in St Peter's earlier in the day. In his address the Pope took note of the steps taken in the Turin archdiocese during the past decade to foster Eucharistic devotion, and a new pastoral initiative for the coming year will emphasise the Word of God.
In each of these pastoral initiatives, the Pope observed, the people of Turin have sought to draw closer to Christ and see his face. Now, he said, the exposition of the Shroud, 'will provide an appropriate moment to contemplate that mysterious face which silently speaks to the hearts of men, inviting them to recognise therein the face of God.'
Breaking from his prepared text Benedict said that he hoped to attend the exposition of the Shroud 'if the Lord gives me life and health.'
In Melbourne, visitors to the exhibition in St Mary's crypt will be able to see for themselves and draw their own conclusions as they inspect the many artistic works on display and compare them with the full size replicas of the Shroud, the negative photos and the three-dimensional images obtained by the specialists for image processing methods.
The Shroud exhibition, to be conducted by 'Missionaries of the Holy Face', will include both the historical and the latest scientific evidence regarding the Shroud. As well, guides will provide visitors with information and a series of lectures will be given daily at 1.30 pm. (Details of the lectures will be provided on posters and leaflets to be distributed in churches).
Both exhibitions, 'Jesus of Nazareth ' and 'Shroud of Turin', will be held between 10am and 5pm daily, from Sunday, 6 July, to Sunday, 20 July, inclusive. As indicated, admission to both will be free.
Max Crockett is a Geelong based Catholic with a special interest in the Shroud.