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Pope to honor fireman who saved Shroud of Turin

April 13, 1997

TURIN, Italy (AP) _ John Paul II will award special papal citations to the firemen who saved the Shroud of Turin from a burning cathedral, a Vatican spokesman said Sunday.

A fire late Friday night badly damaged the 500-year-old San Giovanni Cathedral, home of the relic some consider Jesus Christ’s burial shroud, and the nearby Royal Palace.

Firefighter Mario Trematore hammered through four layers of bulletproof glass to rescue the shroud in its silver box from the burning building.

``God gave me the strength to break the glass,″ he gasped, collapsing outside the cathedral as onlookers wept and applauded.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope would bestow special Vatican citations on Trematore and the other firefighters who rescued the shroud. He spoke with reporters accompanying the pope to Sarajevo.

Meanwhile, officials in Turin on Sunday authorized the construction of a temporary roof to protect the Royal Palace.

Mayor Valentino Castellani and said repair work on the palace and the cathedral would begin immediately, in order to protect the interiors from water damage in case of rain, according to the ANSA news agency.

Workmen will also begin shoring up the cathedral’s Guarini Chapel, which housed the shroud for hundreds of years.

The shroud belongs to the Vatican, and its official custodian is the archbishop of Turin. He has said plans to give the shroud a rare public showing next year will go ahead.

The local and national governments have both pledged money to repair the cathedral. ``It’s the shroud’s natural and symbolic place. We’ll do all we can to get it back there,″ the mayor said.

Castellani said the restoration could be an opportunity to create a place inside the chapel where the shroud could lie flat, as some scientists have recommended. The shroud, a 14-foot piece of linen, is wound around a wooden cylinder.

The chapel was designed and built 300 years ago specifically to showcase the silver box with the shroud inside.

The cloth bears the faint yellowish negative image of the front and back of a man with thorn marks on the head, lacerations on the back and bruises on the shoulders.

The shroud was Crusader booty taken from Constantinople to France in 1353. It was moved to Turin after being scorched in a fire in 1532.

The Vatican has allowed scientists to do radiocarbon tests on the shroud and several have concluded it is a crude medieval fake. But believers regard its as one of Christianity’s most awe-inspiring reminders of the crucifixion.

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