Leading in Research and Education on the Shroud of Turin
By Dr. Cheryl White
In early 2018, Fr. Peter Mangum, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Shreveport and Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, and Dr. Cheryl White, Professor of History at Louisiana State University at Shreveport and Curator, Museum of the Holy Shroud, were granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives to research medieval papal documents potentially related to the Shroud of Turin. As a result of that initial research, Dr. White presented a scholarly paper they co-authored entitled,“Re-Examining the Record: Contextual Analysis of a Letter by Pope Innocent III,” at the 2019 International Conference on the Shroud of Turin held in Toronto, Ontario. The paper argues that there is contextual and linguistic evidence contained in letters of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) surrounding the Fourth Crusade which indicate an awareness of the Shroud’s presence in Constantinople at that time. The paper will be published in the proceedings of the conference in early 2020, as well as in other international peer-reviewed sites.
Their work related to this fascinating relic of Christianity has been ongoing and multi-faceted. Fr. Peter Mangum and Dr. White were recently able to consult with both the religious and scientific communities in Turin, Italy, where the Shroud has been kept since 1578. In September 2019, Fr. Peter Mangum and Dr. White met with the president of the Archbishop of Turin’s Commission on the Holy Shroud, as well as members of the International Center for Sindonology. They were accompanied by Barrie Schwortz, the original documenting photographer on the Shroud of Turin Research Project of 1978, and Fr. Andrew Dalton, professor of Shroud Studies at the Regina Apostolorum in Rome. The purpose of these meetings was to further collaboration between the center in Turin and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, which houses the Museum of the Holy Shroud (the Richard Orareo Collection), the second-largest publicly available collection of Shroud-related artworks and artifacts in the world, surpassed only by the Museo della Sindone in Turin. Following their meetings in Turin, Fr. Mangum and Dr. White were again given access to the Vatican Secret Archives to continue their research into the Shroud’s so-called “Missing Years” of the thirteenth century. This archival visit is expected to produce at least one more major scholarly paper as a follow-up to the findings presented at the 2019 international conference.
Their educational efforts have extended to public presentations and lectures to diverse national audiences, including seminaries and universities, and religious and secular groups. Their podcast series produced in 2018, Who is the Man of the Shroud? continues to reach a diverse international audience. They are also currently collaborating and consulting with the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. on a major planned Shroud exhibition. The national kick-off event for that major exhibit is planned for January 2020.
This past summer, the Louisiana State Senate passed Resolution 124, put forth by Sens. John Milkovich, Barrow Peacock and Ryan Gatti, commending Fr. Peter and Dr. White for their work in advancing knowledge of the Shroud, as well as contributing to the educational culture of the area. Dr. White was able to be present to accept the special resolution on the floor of the Senate.
The Shroud of Turin is believed by many to be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ, the same cloth described in the Gospel accounts that was found in the empty sepulcher. The cloth is the most studied object in history, yet the explanation for the mysterious image upon it, that of a scourged and crucified man, remains elusive to scientists and other academic disciplines. The research and educational initiatives of Fr. Mangum and Dr. White has been in response to these ongoing questions, as they continue to seek opportunities to reach the hearts and minds of many people through the message of the Shroud.