The linen cloth, which some believe bears the imprint of Jesus’ face after his crucifixion, was allegedly of great interest to the dictator, and church officials feared he would try to steal it, Benedictine historian Andrea Davide Cardin told magazine “Diva e Donna.”
Reporting on the article, German daily Die Welt said Cardin found documents written by former Turin Archbishop Maurilio Fossati in 1938 that revealed Nazi leaders had asked “unusual and persistent” questions about the legendary relic and its location during a visit to Italy by Hitler in 1938.
The cloth was secretly moved from Turin to the southern Italian Montevergine abbey in 1939 for fear of bombing during World War II, but Cardin, who directs the abbey library, said he believed it may have actually been moved to hide it from the Nazis.
Because the Vatican was alarmed at Hitler’s interest in the relic, monks at the monastery hid the shroud in a choir altar. Later in 1943, German soldiers came to scrutinise the abbey, Die Welt said.
To distract the Nazis, monks gathered to hold a service in front of the altar where the shroud was concealed, and because a German commander had ordered troops not to disturb the worship, the relic remained safe from their grasp.
It was not returned to Turin until 1946, the report said.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make a pilgrimage to see the shroud on May 2, Die Welt reported. The relic goes on public display for the first time in 10 years from April 10 to May 23.