Shroud of Turin expert Russ Breault approaches authenticity questions from several angles

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

February 28, 2020

Shroud of Turin expert Russ Breault identifies key areas of the shroud at Saint Andrew Catholic Church before the Shroud Encounter presentation on Feb. 22. Breault displayed a museum-quality replica of the shroud in the narthex. (NTC/Anna Engelland)Shroud of Turin expert Russ Breault identifies key areas of the shroud at Saint Andrew Catholic Church before the Shroud Encounter presentation on Feb. 22. Breault displayed a museum-quality replica of the shroud in the narthex. (NTC/Anna Engelland)
Shroud of Turin expert Russ Breault identifies key areas of the shroud at St. Andrew Catholic Church during a Shroud Encounter presentation on Feb. 22. Breault displayed a museum-quality replica of the shroud in the church narthex. (NTC/Anna Engelland)


FORT WORTH — For Barbara Dossett, a parishioner at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington, Feb. 22’s Shroud of Turin presentation at St. Andrew Church in Fort Worth provided a more hands-on experience than any television documentary ever could.

“I always believed in my heart it was the real thing,” Dossett said. “But it was fascinating to hear the concreteness of what I believe it is.”

Many believe the Shroud of Turin to be the linen cloth Jesus was buried in.

Shroud of Turin expert Russ Breault, who first became interested in the shroud when he wrote a 1980 article for his college newspaper, titled his presentation “CSI Jerusalem: The Case of the Missing Body.” In addition to a displayed life-sized replica of the shroud showing the front and back images of a man, Breault addressed questions of the shroud’s authenticity from scriptural, scientific, and artistic perspectives.

The Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy, preserves the shroud believed to be Jesus’ actual burial cloth.

“And here we are in the 21st century,” Breault said. “A skeptical age, a scientific age, and say, ‘Really? Is that even possible?’”

Lack of a DNA sample from Jesus makes a match against blood stains on the shroud impossible, Breault said.

“There’s controversy because no matter how much science we apply to the shroud we can never prove it to actually be the burial shroud of Jesus,” Breault said. “But we can prove what it’s not and then you can decide what it is.”

Burial practices at the time, Breault noted, called for Jews to be buried in the same type garment, a simple white cloth.

Breault recounted Mary Magdalene’s discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb followed by the apostles John and Peter, the discovery of the shroud, and John’s belief that Jesus had risen.

“Had Jesus’ body been stolen, as some allege, they probably would’ve found the shroud thrown in the corner,” Breault said. “Or more likely, why would the thieves unwrap a corpse? Wouldn’t they just take the whole thing and run?”

Although Scripture references no mention of Jesus leaving an image on the shroud, liturgy brought to Spain by Arab Catholics in the sixth century speaks of John and Peter noticing “recent imprints of the dead and risen man on the linen.”

“That’s not Scripture,” Breault said. “But it’s 1,500 years old. Does it go back to the first century? I don’t know. All I know is that the first piece of evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead is specifically related to the burial shroud.”

Everything about the shroud, Breault said, correlates scriptural accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

A team of 40 scientists conducted numerous tests in 1978 to determine the shroud’s authenticity. Although those tests were inconclusive, the scientists concluded the shroud to be that of a “real scourged and crucified man” and not the product of an artist. The bloodstains are real, and the textile is ancient and of a type older than the middle ages.

Tests carbon dating the shroud to the middle ages prove problematic, Breault said, because of repairs to corners of the shroud throughout time. Breault offered evidence ranging from artistic depiction to scientific findings pointing toward the shroud’s dating to well before the middle ages. Breault also put forth a possible timeline of the shroud’s journey from Jerusalem to Constantinople to France to Italy.

Gaps exist, making verification of whether the shroud in Turin is the same one Jesus was buried in impossible, Breault said.

However, Breault said, the shroud speaks to the past, present, and future. The message of the now is that it serves as a receipt for the price Christ paid for our salvation.

The relevance of the now message impressed St. Bartholomew Church parishioner Eileen Yanaros and her daughter, Teresa Yanaros, as did the scientific and historical evidence Breault offered.

“Even for people who are not Catholic, or not Christian, I think this kind of information brings them to the door and they can look at the evidence and start to think about [the shroud] in a new way,” Teresa Yanaros said.

Russ Breault will return to Fort Worth to present “CSI Jerusalem: The Case of the Missing Body” at St. Peter the Apostle Parish on Saturday, April 4 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 5 at 2 p.m. The presentation is open to the public and costs $5. St. Peter the Apostle is located at 1201 Cherry Lane.

FORT WORTH — For Barbara Dossett, a parishioner at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington, Feb. 22’s Shroud of Turin presentation at St. Andrew Church in Fort Worth provided a more hands-on experience than any television documentary ever could.

Published (until 12/5/2041)
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