In the News: Face to face with Veronica's Veil

Pope Benedict XVI looks kinda bummed as he views the Holy Image, purported to originate with an act of kindness on the Via Dolorosa. "Dummkopfs! This is a painting!" he seems to be thinking.

It scared the crud out of me this week when I read that the Pope might pronounce favorably on the authenticity of a very questionable relic -- the legendary veil used by Veronica to wipe the face of Christ.
ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict became the first pontiff on Friday [September 1, 2006] to visit "Veronica's Veil", which Christian tradition says was used to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow on his way to crucifixion and miraculously recorded his features.

Benedict knelt in prayer before the relic also known as the "Sacred Visage", which has been guarded by Capuchin friars in a remote monastery in Manoppello in the Apennine mountains for centuries.

But the Pope stopped short of endorsing the veil, venerated since the Middle Ages, as the true face of Christ

Some of the commentary has been hilarious. The Veil bears an eerie resemblance to the Shroud of Turin, said many news reports. Some examples:

Reuters: "The fragile cloth depicts very clearly, in blood-red hues, a bearded man bearing a striking resemblance to a more famous relic, the Turin Shroud in northern Italy, which is revered by some Christians as the cloth used to wrap Christ's body."

AP and USA Today: "The veil is not as famous as the Holy Shroud of Turin, held to be Christ's burial cloth, but some experts say the images on the two cloths can be perfectly superimposed and that they were formed at the same time. Skeptics say it appears to have been painted." "The loving gaze conveys inexplicable peace. Scholars say the Holy Face shows striking similarities to the face etched on the Shroud of Turin. After praying before the relic for peace in the world and other intentions, Pope Benedict told those present: "In order to enter into communion with Christ and contemplate His face, our lives must be illuminated by the truth of love which overcomes indifference, doubt, lies and egoism."

Too true, your Holiness, but I still say it's ix-nay on the eil-vay.

Striking resemblance? Perfectly superimposed? striking similarities? I've put both representations side by side above to let you decide.

To me, other than the fact that the images are of the face of a bearded male, there's no comparison. The Veil is obviously a work of art -- some sort of drawing transferred to cloth. The Shroud has its problems, but at least there's a spooky grittiness to it that makes it compelling.

All told, I'm glad that B16 kept out of this. he could have made us look really silly by accepting that this venerable-though-artistically-poor object as in any way the real thing.