Relics that “speak”

Polish author Gorny writes of scientists and doctors who study important items of worship and rediscover faith

Writer and journalist, author of TV documentaries, Grzegorz Gorny is a well-known figure in Poland. His professional journey began in Warsaw, in one of the most important Polish daily newspapers, “Rzeczpospolita”. He was also a correspondent of the paper from Ukraine. However, at a certain point he began to feel unsatisfied with this promising journalistic career: “I suddenly felt that there was no newspaper I wished writing for”, he told SIR Europe. He thus decided to found the cultural and religious weekly “Fronda”, which he directed for 18 years. “Fronda”‘s success led to the establishment of a TV program and a website bearing the same name. Among Gorny’s most renowned volumes figures: “Witnesses to mystery: Investigations into Christ’s relics”, a journalistic survey into the authenticity of the Shroud in Turin, the Tunic of Argenteuil, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the Manoppello image, fruit of a two-year journey to the places where this and other sacred objects are preserved. Iva Mihailova interviewed the author of the volume. In your opinion, what is the role of relics in today’s technological world, in which the interest for the sacred seems to have waned? “For modern man science has a lot of authority, much more than the tradition or religion. The scientific studies that prove the authenticity of the relics change the way people perceive them them in a radical way. The public exhibition the Holy Shroud of Turin, with people standing on lines from morning to night to visit, is evidence of it. Why wait hours just to see the relic of the Shroud? Because its authenticity is confirmed by scientific studies. In researching my book, I used an unusual approach, starting with investigative reporting: I researched the traces of the crime committed two thousand years ago, that is, since the death of Jesus”. Is there an impact of similar relics on the faith of third millennium believers? “There is no need for relics to have faith, but at times they can attract people towards Christianity. In my meetings with scholars that have examined the relics – NASA scientists, experts from Scotland Yard, forensic scientists, archaeologists…. – I discovered that most of them were motivated by personal interests or that they wanted to prove that the relics were false. In the end sacred objects became the reason for their conversion. Jewish born atheist scholar Barry Schwarz is an example of this. He started investigating on the Holy Shroud in 1977. He planned to devote not more than a week to the research in order to prove to himself it was false. But his research is ongoing still today and he has become an ardent defender of the Shroud’s authenticity”. Which of the relics you have examined has impressed you the most? “The Tunic of Argenteuil, near Paris. It has a very troubled history. It survived the French Revolution and various persecutions and misfortunes. But what impressed me the most are the red blood cells identified by scientists, which prove that the man who wore the robe suffered from a rare disease, hematidrosis, whose symptom is sweating blood. This disease is cause by high levels of stress that causes anaphylactic shock. It’s a scientific confirmation that Jesus has not spared himself human suffering and went all the way”. You are collecting the stories of people who initially took action against the Church but converted at a later stage. Could you tell us more about this project? “As a reporter I enjoy describing these impressive human stories, such as that of the Serbian doctor Stojan Adasevic, an inveterate abortionist who practised 20 abortions a day. He suddenly changed his views completely one day when on the ultrasound screen he realised what abortion really was all about. This experience deeply affected him also because he lived in Communist Yugoslavia and his decision of interrupting this practice entailed high costs to him. It also led him to the discovery of faith. I met another doctor in Bulgaria, Anghelina Nicolcheva: she also practiced abortion but she converted and felt inspired to build an Orthodox church in her hometown. She would even beg alms for the construction of the temple outside large monasteries.

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