Barrie Schwortz, who began studying the Shroud of Turin in 1978, sharply defends its authenticity
By Rosette Correa
Special to The B.C. Catholic
Barrie Schwortz joined the Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1978 and has defended the shroud's authenticity ever since. He answered questions at The Man of the Shroud Exhibit at Immaculate Conception Parish in Delta March 26-31.
Schwortz, the founder of the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, continues to play an influential role in shroud research as the founder and editor of the internationally recognized Shroud of Turin website, www.shroud.com. His photographs have appeared in hundreds of books and publications.
Rosette Correa: What prompted you to join the shroud research team in 1978?
Barrie Schwortz: The unique properties of the shroud's image. Because I was Jewish, I was very hesitant to take on this subject matter; I didn't feel very comfortable getting involved. In the end, the properties of the image were truly unique, ultimately convincing me to get involved. The rest, as they say, is history.
Correa: How was the project funded?
Schwortz: The group had no official sponsorship and the scientists funded their own activities. We also received gifts and loans of technical equipment valued at over $2 million.
Primarily we funded ourselves. Of course, when we went to the bank and applied for a loan to fund our research, we would tell the bank people about our story and they would look at us strangely.
There were a few sponsors, too, like Miller Brewing Company. The president was a devout Catholic. We also got some funds from National Geographic.
Correa: What were the religious affiliations of the team?
Schwortz: This was first a scientific research, and had nothing to do with religion or religious affiliation, but the team was made up of Catholics, a few Jewish guys like me, and some Protestants. To say whether they believed in the authenticity of the shroud at first is not established, but they did after we finished our studies.
Correa: You came in as scientists, what did you come out as?
Schwortz: To be accurate, I came in as a photographer well versed in technical issues. In the end I came out not just as a scientist, but as someone who had found a deeper meaning to things.
I was Jewish, and not very active in my own faith, but ultimately, because of the shroud, where I had to take a public role, I was forced to confront my own beliefs. I was 50 years old at that time, and I was not in a rush.
I had been raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, and God had been a part of my upbringing, but I had ignored Him for most of my life. When I established shroud.com and spoke out publicly, people started asking, "What do you believe in?" and since I wanted to be truthful about every bit of this, it forced me for the first time as an adult to look inside my heart and confront my faith.
Correa: What motivates you to go on doing this exhibit?
Schwortz: What motivates me really is this compelling need to share the truth about this cloth to those to whom it matters. The media rarely report it accurately, and that's what prompted me to build the website in the first place.
It was this burning desire to share with the public accurate information which they weren't getting in documentaries and media reports.
A caller on a radio show once said the shroud was a painting done by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was a battle I couldn't win.
People who believe in something will hold to it to the very end, so it was useless for me to carry on the debate with him. This is what drives me to do this work; it's for those who truly believe.
Correa: For you, what would authentication of the Shroud of Turin mean for the Christian world, the whole world?
Schwortz: For the Christian world it is a verification of everything the Gospels tell us about what was done to this Man. This is a document of the Passion, and so I think the real significance for Christians, and for everybody, is its faithfulness to what the Gospels tell us was done.
For the whole world, from one human being to another, how can one not have a love for a man willing to sacrifice himself in such a horrible manner for what he believed in? That's not from a theological point of view; it's from a human point of view.
And so even though I am a Jew, and so was Jesus, and I'm not a Christian, not of the faith, I still believe Jesus, Who gave up everything, gave it up for what He believed in.