Shroud of Turin: Shroud Experts & Original STURP Team Members Gather at Shreveport’s Cathedral of St. John Berchmans for Special Panel

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by Jessica Rinaudo

On the second weekend in October, the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host an event that’s drawing international attention. Two members of the original 1978 Shroud of Turin Research team (STURP), the project’s president and physicist Dr. John Jackson and photographer Barrie Schwortz, will join other experts in the field on a speakers panel to apply their shared research and expertise with visitors from across the country. The dinner on October 12, will be the anchor for a three-day Shroud of Turin speaking event in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Shroud of Turin Research Project.

In 1978, a team of scientists were granted unprecedented access to the Shroud of Turin. Over the course of five days, the team of scientists and photographers worked non-stop, using various techniques, including infrared spectrometry and thermography, as well as sticky tape samples to analyze the cloth. This was the only research of its kind ever conducted on the Shroud of Turin. The research results were published in peer reviewed scientific journal articles over the course of four years following the team’s work.

Photo of the Shroud of Turin taken by Barrie Schwortz, a member of the Shroud of Turin Research Project, in 1978. Schwortz will be part of a six person expert panel on the Shroud on October 12, 2018, at the Cathedral.

Dr. John Jackson, a physicist, led the original 40-person STURP team. His path to the project was a winding one that began in his early teenage years.
“I was introduced to the Shroud by my mother when I was 13 or 14 years old. She told me that she had a picture of Jesus. … She showed it to me. And my first experience with the Shroud was that I didn’t recognize the image,” said Dr. Jackson. “Suddenly it dawned on me that I was looking at the face and the face was looking right at me. And it was that moment of interaction, that encounter, that little did I know at that point that it was going to change my life,” he said.

Much later in his life, when Dr. Jackson was a graduate student at Colorado State University, he was finishing up his first year of the program, as well as his time in the Air Force ROTC program. “During spring break I was in a mountain cabin, and I read a book that was loaned to me by one of my other graduate student friends – a book on the Shroud, it was by John Walsh. It talked about the kind of science that could be done on the Shroud. Little did I know that when I was reading that, this was in 1968, that 10 years later I’d be in a position to actually do those studies.”

Dr. Jackson added, “When I arrived back at Colorado State University, I had every intention of finishing up my Master’s degree in Physics there. I told my professor that I would like to do a project, a thesis, on the Shroud of Turin. Of course, he had no idea what that was. When I explained it to him, I think he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.”
But the idea and project never materialized at that time and place. Several days later, Dr. Jackson received a phone call from the Air Force inviting him to attend naval postgraduate school to receive a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Effects, and then ultimately a PhD in General Relativity and Cosmology. Following that he became a scientist at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM, and taught physics at the Air Force Academy.

“It was during that time period that I was able to do something I had wanted to do back at Colorado State University. I wanted to explore the relationship of image intensity to cross body distance,” said Dr. Jackson.

He was able to analyze the Shroud of Turin using this technique, producing a 3D relief of a body. “It showed something very fundamental that science can sink its teeth into regarding the Shroud. This discovery was of such a nature that it immediately began to interest scientists,” he said.

This was the catalyst that launched two years of preparation for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, which came to fruition in 1978.

As the president of STURP, Dr. Jackson made the main decisions regarding what would be done during their time there. He worked on the scientific protocols, administration of the research and how to solve scientific issues related to the project.

“We learned a tremendous amount about the Shroud. .. Five days working around the clock with 30 people with very good scientific credentials lead to a very strong data characterization of the Shroud, which we have been using ever since to put together hypotheses of trying to understand what exactly we have here,” said Dr. Jackson.

Rebecca Jackson is married to Dr. John Jackson, and is a longtime convert to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism. She runs the The Shroud Center Exhibit Presentation Center in Colorado, and also conducts her own research into the First Century Jewish aspects of the Shroud.

“I grew up Orthodox Jewish in Brooklyn, New York, and I’m a descendant of Holocaust survivors. I started coming to Christianity in the middle of high school, a Jewish Orthodox high school. So I was a Catholic in my heart for many years – since about 1963.”

Rebecca spent many years abroad teaching in Israel before returning to the U.S. and joining the Army. In 1987, she officially converted to Christianity, all before she had ever met Dr. Jackson. In 1990, she saw a video called The Silent Witness, and Dr. Jackson was featured in the film. She eventually met up with John and began working on Jewish aspects of the Shroud of Turin in 1990. Two years later, the two were married.

“From 1963, I’ve been studying ethnology,” said Rebecca. “In order to understand the Shroud, you have to understand Jewish ethnology. I was made for that because of my background.”

Her Jewish and Christian background combined with her studies in ethnology and global trade, bring a unique perspective to Shroud of Turin research.

Together Dr. John and Rebecca Jackson will give a free presentation on the Shroud of Turin on Saturday, October 13 at the Cathedral. They will also join in on the Friday night panel discussion.

Barrie Schwortz was the photographer for the 1978 STURP project. He visited Shreveport in March of this year and delivered a talk on his experience to more than 600 people. He is returning for STURP’s 40th anniversary, the first time in many years that he and Dr. Jackson have reunited. During his visit this past March, Schwortz talked about his experience being up close and photographing the Shroud of Turin.

“I started looking for paint pigment binders, any indication of any artwork,” said Schwortz. “Now I’m not an authority on that subject, but I have good eyes and I had total access to the Shroud, no glass or anything in between. My nose was an inch from that cloth and I was looking at it and looking down in between the fibers because paint pigment binders are going to be visible. They’re not going to disappear and just leave an image.”

He continued, “And so I knew probably within 10 or 15 minutes of the Shroud being unveiled that whatever it was, it wasn’t a painting.”

Schwortz photographed the Shroud of Turin over those five days, and his now famous photographs have been published in national publications across the globe. He also runs Shroud.com, which remains a go to point for enthusiasts and the curious alike, boasting more than a million visitors a year.

Schwortz will be part of the panel discussion on Friday evening.

Russ Breault has no direct tie to STURP, but instead became interested in the Shroud of Turin while he worked for his college newspaper in 1980. Following STURP in 1978, articles began rolling out about the research project and the Shroud, and so he asked if he could write a couple of stories on the Shroud for his college newspaper.

“I spent a lot of time researching for that and did a lot of reading and talked to some of the scientists on the phone to get quotes. So by the time the articles ran in the fall of 1980, I was hooked. I thought, ‘Man, this is an incredible mystery.’ And so, it just kind of became my life’s work,” said Breault.

He began doing small presentations on the Shroud of Turin, and his work continued to grow. In 1997, he incorporated the Shroud Education Project. Since that time he’s spoken at numerous conferences and appeared in several nationally televised documentaries including Mysteries of the Ancient World on CBS. Most recently, he appeared in the highly acclaimed, Uncovering the Face of Jesus —a two-hour documentary on The History Channel.

Breault’s fascination with the Shroud is wrapped up in its possibility. “If the Shroud was the work of an artist, we would have figured that out 100 years ago. All it takes is a magnifying glass to see the paint…. Scientists never found any visible trace of any kind of paint pigment, dye stain, no substances that would have been used by an alleged artist…. You can’t just simply say that this is some medieval hoax, because at this point, we still have not been able to fully replicate it.”

Beault’s presentation, “CSI Jerusalem” is presented much like the beloved TV show, slowly unveiling clues about the Shroud of Turin, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. His presentation will be on Thursday, October 11, at 6:00 p.m. at the Cathedral. It is a free event. He will also join Friday night’s panel discussion.

Bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to the panel discussion, both Father Peter Mangum, Rector of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Diocesan Administrator and Judicial Vicar, and Dr. Cheryl White, Associate Professor of History at LSU-Shreveport, will be part of the event as well. Together they have launched the extremely successful and globally listened to Man of the Shroud podcast series. Both are members of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud. In April of this year, both Fr. Mangum and Dr. White were granted access to the Vatican Secret Archives for further research related to the Shroud. Fr. Mangum is curator of the new Shroud Exhibit located at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. Dr. White has studied the Shroud of Turin the entirety of her academic career, with a special interest in the Shroud’s so-called “Missing Years,” of 1204-1355.

Dr. and Mrs. Jackson, Schwortz, Breault, Fr. Mangum and Dr. White, will join their experience, intellect and insight to produce a once in a lifetime event at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans. See page 15 for details of the weekend’s events, and visit sjbcathedral.org to purchase tickets.

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