Suddenly it all makes sense....
Yesterday the Vatican announced that they believe a link has been found between the Knights Templar and the Shroud of Turin. Today's Times Online states that the proof of the link comes from the work of researcher Dr. Barbara Frale. Some of you might remember it was Frale discovered the Chinon Parchment. This document not only included a transcript of the trial of the Templars, but Pope Clement V's admission that the Order was not guilty of heresy.
Frale links the Templars to the Shroud by a 1287 document by Templar initiate Arnaut Sabbatier. In this document, Sabbatier states that the Templars held, in secret, a "long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times." Furthermore the Times article goes on to say that, " They had rescued it to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of heretical groups such as the Cathars, who claimed that Christ did not have a true human body, only the appearance of a man, and could therefore not have died on the Cross and been resurrected." Unfortunately, the Times does not give us the benefit of a reference for this claim.
The Easter week claim from the Vatican is nothing short of incredible. The Church claims to have evidence of the Shroud's "missing years" from the fall of Constantinople in 1204 to its reemergence in 1353. Filling in a gap of 150 years of the Shroud's history is a feat, but to admit that the Templars held the Shroud is another matter.
The Times article mentions that Frale's "study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light the document" of Sabbatier that connected the dots. One can only surmise that the Vatican has known of the link between the Templars and the Shroud since shortly after Frale's 2001 discovery of the Chinon Parchments. If this is the case, some moves on the part of the Vatican, and other groups, since 2001 start to fall into place.
A quote from Fred Thompson's character, Admiral Painter, in The Hunt for the Red October comes to mind: "The Russians don't take a dump without a plan"; the same could be said of the Vatican. The control of information, timing of announcements, and actions from the Holy See are as orchestrated as any government's. Let's take a look at the time line of events leading up to this revelation from the Vatican and see what emerges. The links on the dates are to articles supporting the time line. In cases where the links are dead, references are given.
September 2001 - Dr Barbara Frale discovers the Chinon Parchments in the Vatican's Secret Archives. The Parchments have been "misfiled" for the last 700 years and supposedly the contents were unknown by the Vatican. Also of note: the Times article on the Shroud/Templar connection claims that Frale found the Chinon Parchments in 2003. The Italian Magazine Hera ran an article Templars: The Flame of the Innocence in 2002 about Frale's discovery.
18 Mar 2003 - Dan Brown's book the Da Vinci Code is released in the United States. We all know what that did to the mythos and public awareness of the Templars.
29 Nov 2004 - A Hertfordshire group of Templars sends a letter to the Vatican seeking the Church to apologize for the persecution of the Templars. According to the article, one of the members said, "There have been some unofficial responses over the telephone and we have received certain indications from officials within the church that leaves us hopeful that an apology might be forthcoming,"
29 April 2005 - The Hertfordshire Mercury reports that before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, contacted a Dr Alan Thompson at the University of Hertfordshire about a Templar connection in the town.
23 May 2006 - The Vatican issues a letter in Germany that denounces claims that the Church is reforming the Templars. It is still unknown who was circulating a forged letter that made this claim and why the Church would take any position on this matter.
17 July 2007 - BBC reports that the Vatican has closed its main library until September 2010 for restoration work. Until that time, any of the printed resources of the library will be off limits to the rest of the world.
4 Oct 2007 - The Vatican announces the 25 Oct 2007 release of the Chinon Parchments in Processus contra Templarios. The limited edition book will include information that "clears" the Templars of heresy. The release of the text "just happens" to fall within 12 days of the 700th anniversary of the Templar's arrest in Paris on charges of heresy.
24 Nov 2007 - An archeological survey by the modern day Templar Organization Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH) in
21 Aug 2008 - Dr. Frale announces that she's found a prayer written by a Templar while in prison. The prayer appeals to the Virgin Mary to free the order, "despite all the lies that have been thrown at us by liars," and guide the order's enemies toward "truth and charity"
While this has been a long way around the bend, here's my conjecture. The Vatican has known, at least since 2001, of the contents of the Chinon Parchments. With public awareness of the history and pseudo-history of the Templars growing since the release of the Da Vinci Code, the Church has decided to use this to its advantage. While the position of the Church has not "officially" changed on the trial of the Templars, an information campaign has been waged to publically clear them of heresy charges.
Since the Templars were supposedly protecting the Shroud from heretical groups, how could they be a part of their heresies? By extension, we have a set up for casting some doubts of the Templar's involvement in covering up the theory of Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene. The bonus to all of this is the steadfast Templars lend some legitimacy to the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Not to mention that the connection between the Templars and the Shroud coming before Easter services...
It's interesting that the Church decided to close its main library down till the middle of last year, before making any of these announcements. By releasing the Chinon Parchments and the library being closed, they control the rate and timing of information. There is no chance that someone might wander into some other discovery on the Templars or anything else.
Finally, we have some evidence that the Church has been interested in active neo-Templar groups. I was told a year ago by a senior member of one of these groups (who wished to remain anonymous and I know how that sounds) that they were in contact with the Vatican and that calls for exoneration of the Templars. He mentioned that the time might not be right to upset the apple cart for too many public outcries for justice for the Templars and that "things are forthcoming." Once again, getting the "buy-in" from these organizations lessens them exerting public pressure on the Vatican to do anything except on the Pope's time table.
The big question now is what is next? What other secrets is the Church holding and what is their plan to make the information public? I've got a good feeling we haven't heard the end of this.