The Vatican has claimed that it secretly hid the Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, in a Benedictine abbey during World War II as it feared Adolf Hitler wanted to steal the sacred relic.
According to Father Andrea Cardin, Director of the library at the abbey, the Nazi dictator was obsessed with the shroud and so it was transferred for its safety to the Benedictine sanctuary of Montevergine in Avellino in the southern Campania region of Italy in 1939 and then to Turin in 1946.
In an interview to Italian magazine Diva e Donna, Father Cardin said: “The Holy Shroud was moved in secret to the sanctuary in the Campania region on the precise orders of the House of Savoy and the Vatican.
“Officially this was to protect it from possible bombing (in Turin). In reality, it was moved to hide it from Hitler who was apparently obsessed by it. When he visited Italy in 1938, top-ranking Nazi aides asked unusual and insistent questions about the Shroud.”
Father Cardin, a Benedictine monk, said that after Italy entered the war in alliance with Hitler, and German forces were sent to Italy, the shroud was nearly discovered in its secret hiding place.
“In 1943 when German troops searched the Montevergine church, the monks there pretended to be in deep prayer before the altar, inside which the relic was hidden. This was the only reason it wasn’t discovered,” leading British newspaper The Daily Telegraph quoted the cardinal as saying.
The shroud was returned to Turin in 1946 on the orders of Italy’s last king, Umberto II, as both the Vatican and the Italian royal family, the Savoys, were the then guardians and owners of the sacred cloth.
The monarchy was abolished in 1946 when Italy voted in a referendum to become a republic, and ownership of the shroud eventually passed to the Holy See.