TURIN (CWN) -- Over 425,000 people have already made reservations to view the Shroud of Turin which went on display Saturday and will be available for viewing until June 14 of this year. Organizers of the display expect an overall total of perhaps 3 million people.

      In order to avoid long lines, the organizers have required pilgrims to make reservations, purchasing tickets for a precise date and time. Those time slots are quickly filling up. In fact, while the exhibit will be restricted on May 24 because of a personal visit by Pope John Paul II, the preceding weekend is already nearly full. Organizers say that the weeks of June remain relatively free for interested pilgrims.

      Meanwhile, Turin's Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini said that the Vatican would decide whether or not to sponsor new scientific texts on the cloth.

      "The Shroud belongs to the Holy See," the cardinal observed. In an interview published by Il Messagero, he added that the Church would not become directly involved in scientific debates that have sprung up about the testing of the cloth. Those tests, and their interpretation, are properly matters for scientists to decide, he said.

      Since 1988, the Shroud has been the focus of a lively debate involving the Carbon-14 tests which traced the cloth of the Shroud to an origin in the Middle Ages. Some critics of the tests have pointed out that the cloth had been impregnated with smoke from a fire, thereby compromising the results of the test. Other critics say that the parts of the cloth unaffected by the fire seem to come from the region of Palestine, during the time of Christ.

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April 20, 1998 volume 9, no. 76         DAILY CATHOLIC