The official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano said this week that, 'For science, the shroud continues to be an 'impossible object' – impossible to falsify.'
The statement, in a lengthy article, is a rare event. The Vatican owns the Turin shroud. But it usually shies away from any statement over whether the shroud - supposed to have formed Christ's burial robe - is real.
The article referred to a recent experiment by scientists at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, which found that the markings on the shroud could only have been created by a 'blinding flash of light'.
Monsignor Giuseppe Ghibert of the commission in Turin which supervises the relic told the official newspaper: 'Revelations about the shroud easily assume a sensational tone, but in this case the measured way the scientists speak of their research is to be appreciated.'
'It's a rare thing that gives the news added seriousness.'
The researchers found that the markings had been created by a flash' similar to an ultraviolet laser - a technology far beyond the medieval forgers which sceptics argue must have made the 14ft by 3ft shroud.
Scientists spent years trying to replicate the shroud’s markings.
The newspaper hailed the results, and said the Catholic Church would welcome further tests, according to the Daily Telegraph.
This has led to fresh suggestions that the imprint was indeed created by a huge burst of energy accompanying the Resurrection of Christ.
‘The results show a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,’ the scientists said.
The image of the bearded man on the shroud must therefore have been created by ‘some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)’, their report concludes. But it stops short of offering a non-scientific explanation.
Professor Paolo Di Lazzaro, who led the study, said: ‘When one talks about a flash of light being able to colour a piece of linen in the same way as the shroud, discussion inevitably touches on things such as miracles.
‘But as scientists, we were concerned only with verifiable scientific processes. We hope our results can open up a philosophical and theological debate.’
For centuries, people have argued about the authenticity of the shroud, which is kept in a climate-controlled case in Turin cathedral.
One of the most controversial relics in the Christian world, it bears the faint image of a man whose body appears to have nail wounds to the wrists and feet.
Some believe it to be a physical link to Jesus of Nazareth. For others, however, it is nothing more than an elaborate forgery.
In 1988, radiocarbon tests on samples of the shroud at the University of Oxford, the University of
Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology dated the cloth to the Middle Ages, between 1260 and 1390.
Those tests have been disputed on the basis that they were contaminated by fibres from cloth used to repair the shroud when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
More recently, further doubt was cast on its authenticity when Israeli archaeologists uncovered the first known burial shroud in Jerusalem from the time of the Crucifixion.
Its weave and design are completely different from the Turin Shroud, they said.
The Jerusalem shroud has a simple two-way weave – but the twill weave used on the Turin Shroud was introduced more than 1,000 years after Christ lived.