TURIN, Italy.Â Pope Benedict XVI sought to put an end to one of the Roman Catholic church's most enduring mysteries today, saying the so-called "Shroud of Turin" is authentic, and that the face that appears in it is either Jesus of Nazareth or rock guitarist Eric Clapton.
"This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man," the Pope told worshipers at the church where the shroud went on display for the first time since 2000.Â "Unless it's a towel that Clapton wiped his face with during a 1967 Cream concert."
The Shroud of Turin is a cloth bearing the image of a man in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.Â Believers contend that it is the sheet placed on the body of Jesus Christ at the time of his burial, but detractors contend that the artifact postdates the crucifixion.Â "I think you're looking at the early British invasion era, around the time that Herman's Hermits emerged from whatever dark hell they came from," said Dr. Martin Olfram, a professor at the Lindner College of Divinity and Refrigeration in Waukegan, Wisconsin.
The shroud's authenticity has been questioned over the years, leading theÂ Pope to order tests to satisfy his own intellectual curiosity.Â "Carbon dating is an inherently imprecise standard of measurement, so our best estimate is that the image is from the John Mayall's Blues Breakers phase of Clapton's career," said physicist Niles Forbert of the University of Illinois-Chicago.Â "It was during this period thatÂ he was first recognized as a deity--Clapton, that is, not Jesus."
Clapton is an English blues-rock guitarist who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times; once each as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream, and a third time as an infielder for the ClevelandÂ Indians.Â
His playing inspiredÂ theÂ phrase "Clapton is God" whichÂ was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in a London subway station in 1967 and subsequently etched into the Roman catacombs by early Christians.
The Clapton theory was disputed by some researchers in the field whose reputations may be impugned by the new findings.Â "There's no way that's Eric Clapton," said George Hershum, author of the Four-Chord Handbook to Gregorian Chant.Â "It looks more like Dan Fogelberg."
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