ROME April 8, 2010— -- According to an Italian monk, the real reason the Holy Shroud was hidden in a remote monastery in southern Italy during World War II was to protect it from the thieving hands of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
Officially the famous linen cloth, also known as the Shroud of Turin and believed to have wrapped the dead body of Christ, was secretly sent south by its owners, the Savoy royal family of Turin, to keep it safe from wartime bombings.
Now, on the eve of a rare public display of the Shroud, the Rev. Andrea Davide Cardin, the librarian at the Montevergine Abbey where the Shroud was concealed from 1939 to 1946, says it appears there was another reason to hide the holy relic: to keep it out of the hands of Hitler, who was said to be interested in the esoteric and the occult.
Cardin, a Benedictine monk, told the Italian paper La Stampa that he was preparing an exhibit on the Shroud in his library when he came across a document that he believes shows the Shroud was actually hidden from Hitler.
When it was returned to Cardinal Maurilio Fossati at the Turin Cathedral in 1946, according to Cardin, Fossati wrote in a church document that hiding the shroud had been the right thing to do "because the invader had been in a hurry to ask questions."
Other historians and Shroud experts are skeptical, but Cardin tells an intriguing story.
In a recent interview with the Italian Magazine Diva e Donna, Cardin said that when Hitler visited Italy for seven days in May 1938, he did not go to Turin where the Shroud was kept in the Cathedral, but "Nazi officials asked unusual and insistent questions about the Shroud and where it was kept."
This alarmed the Savoys and the Church, says Cardin, and the King thought the Shroud would be safest in the Vatican. But according to Cardin, Pope Pius XII did not feel the Vatican was safe and it was decided that the Shroud should be hidden in the Abbey of Montecassino.