This, it has to be said, was not your normal kind of press conference.
We gathered in Hampshire to discuss a piece of linen in Italy, with some of the key evidence for the Turin Shroud’s authenticity as a Catholic relic being presented by a Jewish expert to an audience of Muslims.
No wonder things seemed confusing at times.
But if you listened carefully to the shroud researching “sindonologists” addressing the Jalsa Salana convention for Ahmadiyya Muslims near Alton, Hampshire, you could learn a thing or two about “pseudoscience”, blood stains and the naughty things you can do with a plastic mannequin.
For make no mistake, these sindonologists were convinced that what two other researchers had recently done with a plastic mannequin had, scientifically speaking at least, been very naughty indeed.
Dr Matteo Borrini of Liverpool John Moores University and Luigi Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia had used said mannequin, a living volunteer and real and synthetic blood to investigate stains on the Turin Shroud to see whether it really could have wrapped the crucified body of Jesus.
Their conclusion, as reported by most news outlets including The Independent, was that apparent blood spatters on the shroud could only have been produced by someone moving to adopt different poses – rather than lying still, in the manner of a dead and yet to be resurrected Messiah.
Which, as also reported by The Independent, did tend to support the conclusion that the much-venerated piece of cloth in Turin Cathedral was not the burial shroud of the Messiah, but a clever Medieval forgery.
Hence, once they had read The Independent’s report, the exquisitely polite invitation of the Ahmadiyya Muslims to come to their annual convention in Hampshire and be told different.
The Ahmadiyya Muslims, at least from a Christian and mainstream Islamic perspective, like to do things differently. For them, the shroud is venerated as potential proof not of Jesus’ death on the cross, but of the fact that he was taken down from it alive.
This conflicts with mainstream Islamic belief and partly explains why the Ahmadiyya are now headquartered in the UK after allegedly facing persecution in Muslim countries including Pakistan, where they began in the 19th Century.
And of course, even if the Ahmadiyya revere Jesus as a noble prophet, their never-dead theory does rather contradict the Christian beliefs of millions who regard the shroud as a relic of the resurrection.
But here we are at a Catholic-organised travelling Turin Shroud exhibition within a Muslim convention in Hampshire, being told a thing or two by a Jewish photographer.
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