Shroud of Turin on Public Display for First Time in Five Years, Over a Million Flock to See Alleged Face of Christ

Over a million people are reportedly flocking to Turin in Italy to be a part of the first public display in five years of the famous 14-foot shroud, believed by many to hold the imprint of the face of Jesus Christ.

The Shroud of Turin is displayed relatively rarely to the public, The Guardian reported, and has been available for viewing only five times since 1933.

The relic is usually kept sealed inside a container in a chapel next to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, and was last displayed in 2010. This year its presentation commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, a Catholic who worked with poor youth in Turin.

BBC News noted that Pope Francis will be one of the visitors to see the famous cloth. The shroud is still widely debated among Christian and scientific circles over its authenticity, and over the question of whether it really was used to wrap the body of the crucified Christ.

While the Vatican has acknowledged the importance of the relic, it has never officially proclaimed where it stands on the shroud's authenticity.

Various tests have been conducted on the relic, reaching different conclusions. In 1988, scientists claimed that the shroud is a 13th century forgery following carbon-14 tests, but further analysis has found that the fibers tested in 1988 were from a patch in the shroud, and not part of the original cloth.

Gary Habermas, distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University, said at a conference in Charlotte in 2013 that radiation and blood stains on the shroud offer clues that the relic might indeed be authentic.

Habermas noted that one of the discoveries based on enhanced images of the Shroud presented is that the person's teeth were showing through the skin.

"His skin is intact, his beard is intact, but you are able to see what's inside coming out, just like if you are able to see what's on the back of a hand," he said.

"This is one of the best indications that the man in the Shroud, who was dead and was crucified, (has) radiation coming out," he said of the teeth discovery. "And if that's what this is, you've got something from the inside (coming out).

"(The teeth) are on the inside, but on the photo they are showing outside. Whichever way (the radiation) is coming, it dragged the image from the inside to the outside."

Archbishop of Turin Cesare Nosiglia has said that regardless of what people believe about the shroud, the relic "reflects in a clear and precise manner how the Gospels describe the passion and death of Jesus."

"It is not a profession of faith because it is not an object of faith, nor of devotion, but it can help faith," Nosiglia said.

The Archbishop added that many who come to see the shroud often return for a second visit, when given the chance.

"That means there is a fundamental need in people's hearts to renew this incredible experience that they had the first time they saw it," he offered.

"Even non-believers will come. It's an occasion that brings everybody together."