It's a fanciful premise, given that no credible reports exist of actual human cloning ("Walking Dead" extras don't count). But a hard-boiled New York tabloid newspaper reporter, who describes herself as both an "agnostic" and a "lapsed Catholic," believes that if human cloning could be done today, there's genetic material from which another Jesus could — conceivably — be created.
Linda Stasi, a veteran New York Post staffer who is now that paper's media critic, says she has found the real "Veil of Veronica," the ancient relic that supposedly contains an image of Jesus as well as his blood and, presumably, his DNA. If it were possible to clone a human, Ms. Stasi said in a recent telephone interview, it would be possible to clone Jesus.
Of course, there's a long way to go from making a claim to making a clone: as mentioned, no one has yet done that, and no less an authority than the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared, in a September 2008 document "Dignitatis Personae," that "human cloning is intrinsically illicit."
But what if it weren't impossible, or illicit? What if cloning could be done? Ms. Stasi raises that question — and dozens more — in a thriller titled "The Sixth Station," after the Catholic "Stations of the Cross." The sixth station of the service honors the piety of a Jerusalem woman named Veronica, who wiped Jesus' brow as he walked toward Calvary. The handkerchief or veil she supposedly used became imprinted with Jesus' image and, apparently, infused with his DNA.
It's a riveting, fast-paced tale that had my heart pounding on more than one occasion. That said, I was more interested in Ms. Stasi's real-world discoveries and how they affected her outlook on life.
Her fascination with the veil began in Ephesus, Turkey, near the modern-day city of Izmir. There she saw the fortresslike House of the Virgin Mary, known in Turkish as the "Meryem ana." Not knowing that the mother of Jesus lived and traveled with St. John the Evangelist after Christ's death, Ms. Stasi investigated other bits of history, including the veil, which is said to contain an image of Jesus' face.
There were challenges, of course. For one thing, there is more than one veil, including one displayed at the Vatican each year, but "that's a copy," Ms. Stasi said. She believes the real article is at the Capuchin Church of St. Michael Archangel in Manoppello, a small town in Italy's Pescara province.
Images taken of the Manoppello veil and the Shroud of Turin show the two "match up exactly," Ms. Stasi said. Together, she added, the images "form a 3-D face."
"I nearly fell off my chair," she says, when she saw them.
How was the image made? "When Jesus arose, there was such a tremendous energy, and [the image] was imprinted on the cloth," which Ms. Stasi said was woven from byssus, the hairlike strands found in mussels and other mollusks.
It's a fascinating story, one Ms. Stasi said took six years of research to piece together. The Bible has no record of a solicitous woman wiping Jesus' brow as he trod toward crucifixion. Ms. Stasi maintains that "St. Veronica" was a medieval construct, taken from the Latin words "Vera Icon," or "true image."
But she believes the veil in Manoppello is real, and that belief has changed her perceptions, she said.
"I am a 'lapsed Catholic,'" Ms. Stasi said. "I believe in God but not in organized religion. As an agnostic and as a reporter, I guess this proved to me that Jesus did exist. I don't believe in the tenets, but I do believe in God, even more so now."
She recalled that while writing the novel, her best friend died of cancer. "Six months or so later," Ms. Stasi said, she saw a vision of her friend, in a bright blue Prius accompanied by her two bichon frise dogs, parked outside her home for three hours. In another incident, a pair of phrases written in an ancient version of Romanian somehow appeared in a copy of her manuscript sent by her publisher for review, without any idea of how the words got there.
"As soon as I opened that portal" of investigating the veil and writing the novel, Ms. Stasi said, "all sorts of bizarre things happened to me. [There are a] lot of things in this world that are beyond us."
The tabloid journalist in her was perplexed, Ms. Stasi admitted: "I'm just a regular person, these things are not supposed to happen. But they did."
More information on the book — and Ms. Stasi's experiences — is available online at thesixthstation.com.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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