Shroud of Turin mystery to be focus of new Catholic Church-sanctioned TV show, and app

(CBS News) As Christians around the world celebrated Easter on Sunday, Catholic leaders also displayed the shroud of Turin -- an artifact rooted in Catholic lore, and disputed history -- for a special and rare appearance on Italian television.

One of the most revered and mysterious objects in the Catholic faith, the 14-foot linen cloth bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man and is believed by many to be the cloth used to wrap Christ's body for burial more than 2,000 years ago.

The shroud was last seen in public when then-Pope Benedict XVI prayed before it, with over two million people looking on as he did. As a parting gift before he retired, Benedict authorized an Italian television program on the shroud. There is also a new app, Shroud 2.0 -- which features hi-definition photos of the cloth and highlights details that are invisible to the naked eye -- sanctioned by the Catholic church.

As he welcomed the new display of the shroud, Pope Francis called it an icon rather than a relic, a subtle but important distinction within the Church. The pontiff added that the disfigured face on the cloth resembles the men and women suffering from the indignities of war and violence and at the same time, he said, the face in the shroud conveys a great peace, and the tortured body, "sovereign" majesty.

The shroud's religious importance is undisputed, but its historical authenticity remains in question. A new study by scientists using technology that measures radiation intensity through wavelengths suggests the shroud can be dated back to between 300 B.C. and 400 A.D.

Critics recall a 1988 study using carbon-14 dating that concluded the shroud was fake, however the results of that study have been disputed on the basis that the sample may have been contaminated due to repairs conducted after it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.

Shroud expert Barrie Schwortz, the editor of, told CBS News' Allen Pizzey, "I think it's going to be impossible for us to ever prove who the man on the shroud is. So I think there's a limit to what science can tell us. It can tell us if the cloth is old enough. It can tell us if the image is an artwork or not, which we've now proven it's not.