Pio of Pietrelcina

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Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap
Padre Pio.jpg
Priest, Religious, Stigmatic and Confessor
Born (1887-05-25)May 25, 1887
Pietrelcina, Benevento, Italy
Died September 23, 1968(1968-09-23) (aged 81)
San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified May 2, 1999, Rome, Italy by Pope John Paul II
Canonized June 16, 2002, Rome, Italy by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy (where he lived and is now buried)
Feast February 13
Patronage
  • civil defense volunteers
  • adolescents
  • Don't Worry Be Happy Day (22 January)
[1]

Pio of Pietrelcina (Italian: Pio da Pietrelcina), O.F.M. Cap. commonly known as Padre Pio, (May 25, 1887 – September 23, 1968) was a friar, priest, stigmatist and mystic[1] of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Padre Pio became famous for bearing the stigmata for most of his life, which generated much interest and controversy around him. He is now venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Pio was born Francesco Forgione, and given the name of Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Capuchins. After his beatification in 1999, he was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on June 16, 2002.[2]

Early life[edit]

Francesco Forgione was born to Grazio Mario Forgione (1860–1946) and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio Forgione (1859–1929) on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, a farming town in the southern Italian region of Campania.[3] His parents made a living as peasant farmers.[4] He was baptized in the nearby Santa Anna Chapel, which stands upon the walls of a castle.[5] He later served as an altar boy in this same chapel. His siblings were an older brother, Michele, and three younger sisters, Felicita, Pellegrina, and Grazia (who was later to become a Bridgettine nun).[4] His parents had two other children who died in infancy.[3] When he was baptized, he was given the name Francesco. He stated that by the time he was five years old he had already made the decision to dedicate his entire life to God.[3][5] He also began inflicting penances on himself and was chided on one occasion by his mother for using a stone as a pillow and sleeping on the stone floor.[6] He worked on the land up to the age of 10, looking after the small flock of sheep the family owned. This delayed his education to some extent.[6]

Pietrelcina was a religious town. Feast days of saints were celebrated throughout the year, and religion had a profound influence on the Forgione family. The members of the family attended daily Mass, prayed the Rosary nightly, and abstained from meat three days a week in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.[5] Although Francesco's parents and grandparents were illiterate, they memorized the Scriptures and narrated Bible stories to their children. His mother said Francesco was able to see and speak with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and his guardian angel, and that as a child, he assumed that all people could do so.

According to the diary of Father Agostino da San Marco, who was his spiritual director in San Marco in Lamis, the young Francesco Forgione was afflicted with a number of illnesses. At six he suffered from a grave gastroenteritis, which kept him bedridden for a long time. At ten he caught typhoid fever.[citation needed]

As a youth Francesco reported that he had experienced heavenly visions and ecstasies.[3] In 1897, after he had completed three years at the public school, Francesco was drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin friar who was, at that time, seeking donations in the countryside. When he expressed his desire to his parents, they made a trip to Morcone, a community 13 miles (21 km) north of Pietrelcina, to find out if their son was eligible to enter the Capuchin Order. The friars there informed them that they were interested in accepting Francesco into their community, but he needed more educational qualifications.[5]

Francesco's father went to the United States[7] in search of work to pay for private tutoring for his son, so that he might meet the academic requirements to enter the Capuchin Order.[3] It was in this period that Francesco received the sacrament of Confirmation on September 27, 1899. He underwent private tutoring and passed the stipulated academic requirements. On January 6, 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone where, on January 22, he took the Franciscan habit and the name of Fra (Friar) Pio, in honor of Pope St. Pius I, whose relic is preserved in the Sant'Anna Chapel in Pietrelcina.[8] [5] He took the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.[3]

Priesthood[edit]

The church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Pade Pio's own church

Commencing his seven-year study for the priesthood, he traveled to the friary of St. Francis of Assisi by oxcart.[5] Three years later on January 27, 1907, he made his solemn profession. At 17, he suddenly fell ill, complaining of loss of appetite, insomnia, exhaustion, fainting spells, and terrible migraines. He vomited frequently and could absorb only milk and cheese. The hagiographers say that it was during this time, together with his physical illness, that inexplicable phenomena began to occur. According to their stories, one could hear strange noises coming from his room at night – sometimes screams or roars. During prayer, Brother Pio remained in a stupor, as if he were absent. One of Pio's fellow friars claims to have seen him in ecstasy, levitating above the ground.[9]

In June 1905, Padre Pio's health was so weak that his superiors decided to send him to a mountain convent, in the hope that the change of air would do him some good. His health got worse, however, and doctors advised that he return to his home town. But, even there, his health continued to worsen.

In 1910, Brother Pio was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he offered his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels. His health being precarious, he was permitted to remain with his family until 1916 while still retaining the Capuchin habit.[6]

On September 4, 1916, Padre Pio was ordered to return to his community life. Thus he was moved to an agricultural community, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, located in the Gargano Mountains in San Giovanni Rotondo in Foggia. At that time with Father Pius, the community numbered seven friars. He stayed at San Giovanni Rotondo until his death, except for military service. Padre Pio celebrated the Mass in Latin.[10][11]

Military service[edit]

When World War I started, four friars from this community were selected for military service. At that time, Padre Pio was a teacher at the seminary and a spiritual director. When one more friar was called into service, Padre Pio was put in charge of the community. On November 15, 1915, he was drafted into the Italian army and on December 6, assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples. Due to poor health, he was continually discharged and recalled until on March 16, 1918, he was declared unfit for military service and discharged.[12] In all, his military service lasted 182 days.[13]

Stigmata[edit]

Padre Pio showing the stigmata

On September 20, 1918, while hearing confessions, Padre Pio had his first occurrence of the stigmata: bodily marks, pain, and bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. This phenomenon continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the stigmata smelled of perfume or flowers, a phenomenon mentioned in stories of the lives of several saints and often referred to as the odour of sanctity. Though Padre Pio would have preferred to suffer in secret, by early 1919, news about the stigmatic friar began to spread in the secular world. Padre Pio’s wounds were examined by many people, including physicians.[4]

People who had started rebuilding their lives after World War I, began to see in Padre Pio a symbol of hope.[13] Those close to him attest that he began to manifest several spiritual gifts including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment (one account states that Padre Agostino recorded one instance in which Padre Pio was able to subsist for at least 20 days at Verafeno on only the Eucharist without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and the fragrance from his wounds.[14]

His stigmata, regarded as evidence of holiness, were studied by physicians whose independence from the Church is not known.[15] The observations were unexplainable and the wounds never became infected.[16][17] His wounds healed once but reappeared.[18] They were examined by Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, for about one year. Dr. Giorgio Festa, a private practitioner, also examined them in 1920 and 1925. Professor Giuseppe Bastianelli, physician to Pope Benedict XV, agreed that the wounds existed but made no other comment. Pathologist Dr. Amico Bignami of the University of Rome also observed the wounds but could make no diagnosis.[19] Both Bignami and Dr. Giuseppe Sala commented on the unusually smooth edges of the wounds and lack of edema. Dr. Alberto Caserta took x-rays of Padre Pio's hands in 1954 and found no abnormality in the bone structure.[20]

However, this condition is said to have caused him great embarrassment, and most photographs show him with red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleeding occurred.[16] At the time of Padre Pio's death, his body appeared unwounded, with no sign of scarring. There was a report that doctors who examined his body found it empty of all blood.[21]

Those, both religious and non-religious, who have accused Padre Pio of faking his stigmata, often say Padre Pio used carbolic acid to self-inflict the wounds. The sole piece of evidence for this is a single document found in the Vatican's archive — the report of pharmacist Maria De Vito, from whom he requested four  grams of the acid. This letter was among the material gathered by those who disputed Padre Pio's stigmata at the time. According to De Vito, Padre Pio asked her to keep the order secret, saying it was to sterilize needles (he also asked for other things, such as Valda pastilles).[22][23] The document was examined but dismissed by the Catholic Church during Padre Pio's beatification process.[22] A 2007 book by Sergio Luzzatto contended that Padre Pio faked his wounds was dismissed by the Catholic Anti-Defamation League, which said Luzzatto was spreading "anti-Catholic libels."[22]

One commentator expressed the belief that the Church dismissed the claims based on the accounts of witnesses who stated the acid was in fact used for sterilization. "The boys had needed injections to fight the Spanish Flu which was raging at that time. Due to a shortage of doctors, Padres Paolino and Pio administered the shots, using carbolic acid as a sterilizing agent.”[22][24] Furthermore, carbolic acid is a caustic substance that causes rotting of the flesh and eats away at biological tissue, which was not consistent with Pio's wounds which were localized for over sixty years.[25]

Transverberation and visible stigmata[edit]

A strong believer in Christian meditation, Padre Pio stated: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him".[26]

Based on Padre Pio's correspondence, even early in his priesthood he experienced less obvious indications of the visible stigmata for which he would later become famous.[27] In a 1911 letter, Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual advisor, Padre Benedetto from San Marco in Lamis, describing something he had been experiencing for a year:

Then last night something happened which I can neither explain nor understand. In the middle of the palms of my hands a red mark appeared, about the size of a penny, accompanied by acute pain in the middle of the red marks. The pain was more pronounced in the middle of the left hand, so much so that I can still feel it. Also under my feet I can feel some pain.[27]

His close friend Padre Agostino wrote to him in 1915, asking specific questions such as when he first experienced visions, whether he had been granted the stigmata, and whether he felt the pains of the Passion of Christ, namely the crowning of thorns and the scourging. Padre Pio replied that he had been favoured with visions since his novitiate period (1903 to 1904). He wrote that although he had been granted the stigmata, he had been so terrified by the phenomenon he begged the Lord to withdraw them. He did not wish the pain to be removed, only the visible wounds, since at the time he considered them to be an indescribable and almost unbearable humiliation.[27] The visible wounds disappeared at that point, but reappeared in September 1918. He reported, however, that the pain remained and was more acute on specific days and under certain circumstances. He also said that he was indeed experiencing the pain of the crown of thorns and the scourging. He was not able to clearly indicate the frequency of this experience, but said that he had been suffering from them at least once weekly for some years.[27]

These experiences are alleged to have caused his health to fail, for which reason he was permitted to stay at home. To maintain his religious life as a friar while away from the community, he said Mass daily and taught at school.

St. John of the Cross describes the phenomenon of transverberation as follows:

The soul being inflamed with the love of God which is interiorly attacked by a Seraph, who pierces it through with a fiery dart. This leaves the soul wounded, which causes it to suffer from the overflowing of divine love.[4]

World War I was still going on, and in July 1918, Pope Benedict XV, who had termed the World War "the suicide of Europe," appealed to all Christians urging them to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27 of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between August 5 and August 7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side.[4][13] As a result of this experience, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. This occurrence is considered as a "transverberation" or piercing of the heart indicating the union of love with God. (On 8 August, the Allies began the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the armistice with Germany and the end of the war.)

As a side-note, a first-class relic of Padre Pio, which consists of a large framed square of linen bearing a bloodstain from "the wound of the transverberation of the heart" in Padre Pio's side, is exposed for public veneration at the St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.[28]

Sculpture of Pader Pio with Jesus on the cross in Prato, Italy.

With his transverberation began another seven-week long period of spiritual unrest for Padre Pio. One of his Capuchin brothers said this of his state during that period:

During this time his entire appearance looked altered as if he had died. He was constantly weeping and sighing, saying that God had forsaken him.[4]

In a letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, dated 21 August 1918, Padre Pio writes of his experiences during the transverberation:

While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.[28]

On September 20, 1918, accounts state that the pains of the transverberation had ceased and Padre Pio was in "profound peace."[4] On that day, as Padre Pio was engaged in prayer in the choir loft in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, the same Being who had appeared to him and given him the transverberation, and who is believed to be the Wounded Christ, appeared again and Padre Pio had another experience of religious ecstasy. When the ecstasy ended, Padre Pio had received the visible stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. This time, however, the stigmata were permanent and would stay on him for the next fifty years of his life.[13]

In a letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, his superior and spiritual advisor, Padre Benedetto from San Marco in Lamis dated October 22, 1918, Padre Pio describes his experience of receiving the stigmata as follows:

On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. [...] I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation.[28]

He quoted, "the pain was so intense that I began to feel as if I were dying on the cross."

Poor health[edit]

In addition to his childhood illnesses, throughout his life Padre Pio suffered from "asthmatic bronchitis." He also had a large kidney stone, with frequent abdominal pains. He further suffered from a chronic gastritis, which later turned into an ulcer. He also suffered from inflammations of the eye, nose, ear, and throat, and eventually formed rhinitis and chronic otitis.[citation needed]

In 1925, Padre Pio was operated on for an inguinal hernia, and shortly after this a large cyst formed on his neck that was surgically removed. Another surgery was required to remove a malignant tumor on his ear. After this operation Padre Pio was subjected to radiological treatment, which was successful, it seems, after only two treatments.[29]

In 1956, he came down with a serious case of "exudative pleuritis." The diagnosis was certified by Professor Cataldo Cassano, who personally extracted the serous liquid from the body of Padre Pio.[citation needed] He remained bedridden for four consecutive months. In his old age Padre Pio was tormented by a painful arthritis.

Controversies[edit]

Pope Pius XI, who began the end of the restrictions against Padre Pio around 1933.
Pope Pius XII, pope from 1939, encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.
Pope Paul VI, in the mid-1960s, firmly dismissed all accusations against Padre Pio.

Because of the unusual abilities Padre Pio was claimed to possess, the Holy See instituted investigations of the stories surrounding him. The local bishop, P. Gagliardi, disbelieved Padre Pio’s alleged miracles, suggesting that his Capuchin brothers were making a display out of Padre Pio to gain financial advantage. When Pius XI became pope in 1922, the Vatican became extremely doubtful. Padre Pio was subject to numerous investigations.[16]

Many severe sanctions were imposed on Padre Pio. The Vatican forbade him from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, showing his stigmata publicly, and communicating with Padre Benedetto, his spiritual director. Padre Pio was to be relocated to another convent in northern Italy.[30] The local people threatened to riot, and Rome left Padre Pio where he was.[31]

Fearing these local riots, the plan to transfer Padre Pio to another friary was dropped and a second plan was aborted when a riot almost happened.[31] Even if he was not transferred, from 1921 to 1922 he was prevented from publicly performing his priestly duties, such as hearing confessions and saying Mass.[15] From 1924 to 1931, the Holy See made statements denying that the happenings in the life of Padre Pio were due to any divine cause.[13]

The founder of Milan's Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, friar, physician and psychologist Agostino Gemelli, met Padre Pio once, for a few minutes, but was unable to examine his stigmata.[32] According to Agostino Gemelli, Padre Pio was "an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people's credulity." [33] Agostino Gemelli also speculated that Padre Pio kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. As a result of the Gemelli assessment, the wounds were wrapped in cloth. Padre Pio over many years wore fingerless gloves which concealed his wounds. According to believers, the bleeding continued for some 50 years until they closed within hours of his death.[31]

A woman sold four grams of carbolic acid to Padre Pio in the year 1919. The suggestion was initially presented to the Vatican by the archbishop of Manfredonia, Pasquale Gagliardi, as evidence that Padre Pio could have effected the stigmata with acid. This suggestion was examined and dismissed.[34]

By 1933, the tide began to turn, with Pope Pius XI ordering the Holy See to reverse its ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass. The pope said, "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed."[13] In 1934, he was again allowed to hear confessions. He was also given honorary permission to preach despite never having taken the exam for the preaching license. Pope Pius XII, who assumed the papacy in 1939, encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.

In 1940, Padre Pio began plans to open a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, to be named the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza or "Home to Relieve Suffering." The hospital opened in 1956.[13][15] Barbara Ward, a British humanitarian and journalist on assignment in Italy, played a major role in obtaining for this project a grant of $325,000 from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). In order that Padre Pio might directly supervise this project, Pope Pius XII in 1957 granted him dispensation from his vow of poverty.[16][35] Padre Pio's detractors used this project as another weapon to attack him, charging him with misappropriation of funds.[16]

On July 29, 1960, an Italian monsignore, Carlo Maccari, who later became the archbishop of Ancona, began yet another investigation on behalf of Pope Saint John XXIII (pope from 1958 to 1963) and the Holy Office. The 200-page report he compiled, though never published in full, is said to be devastatingly critical. Maccari included in this report the charge that Padre Pio had sex with female penitents twice a week. A Capuchin friar bugged Padro Pio’s room, but found no evidence to this the charge.[31] Vatican gossip long had it that the “Maccari dossier” was an insuperable obstacle to Padre Pio’s sainthood. According to official Capuchin literature, however, Maccari later recanted and prayed to Padre Pio on his deathbed.[31]

According to a recent book, Pope Saint John XXIII apparently did not espouse the outlook of his predecessors and wrote in 1960 of Padre Pio’s “immense deception."[36] However, it was John XXIII's successor, Pope Paul VI, (pope from 1963 to 1978) who, in the mid-1960s, firmly dismissed all accusations against Padre Pio.[16][31]

In 1947, Father Karol Józef Wojtyła, a young Polish priest who was studying in Rome at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum and who would later go on to become Pope John Paul II, visited Padre Pio, who heard his confession. Austrian Cardinal Alfons Stickler reported that Wojtyła confided to him that during this meeting Padre Pio told him he would one day ascend to "the highest post in the Church though further confirmation is needed."[37] Cardinal Stickler further went on to say that Wojtyła believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a cardinal, not pope, as has been reported in works of piety.[38] (John Paul's secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz, denies the prediction,[39] while George Weigel's biography Witness to Hope, which contains an account of the same visit, does not mention it.) According to oral tradition[40] Bishop Wojtyła wrote to Padre Pio in 1962 to ask him to pray for Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a friend in Poland who was suffering from cancer. Later, Dr. Poltawska's cancer was found to be in spontaneous remission. Medical professionals were unable to offer an explanation for the phenomenon.[41] However, Pope John Saint Paul II, who was the pope from 1978 to 2005 started the canonization process of Padre Pio. The Church has since formally approved his veneration with his canonization by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002.

Later life[edit]

The Hospital that was built on Padre Pio's initiative in San Giovanni Rotondo, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza

Padre Pio became a very well known priest. Franciscan spirituality is characterized by a life of poverty, love of nature, and giving charity to those in need. Franciscan prayer recognizes God's presence in the wonder of creation. This is seen clearly in St. Francis' Canticle of the Sun. Franciscan spirituality is focused on walking in Christ's footsteps, understanding God by doing what Christ asked, experiencing and sharing God. Later Padre Pio became a spiritual director. He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience.[13]

Padre Pio, who was devoted to rosary meditations, said:[42]

"The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order."

He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, "Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry". He directed Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.[13] The novelist and cynic Graham Greene, had two photos of Padre Pio in his wallet after attending one of his Masses. He said that Padre Pio had “introduced a doubt in my disbelief.”[31]

Many people traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo in the south of Italy, when they have heard of Padre Pio, to meet him and confess to him, ask for help, or just because they were curious. Padre Pio's mother died at the village around the convent in 1928. Later, in 1938, Padre Pio had his old father Gratzio, living with him in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo. Also his brother Michele moved into the village, together with their father. Padre Pio's father lived in a little house outside the convent, until his death, 1946.[43]

Death[edit]

A sculpture of Pio of Pietrelcina in the Franciscan San Antonio church in Pamplona, Spain

Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81. The deterioration of Padre Pio's health started during the 1960s and in spite of this, he continued his spiritual works. On September 21, 1968, the day after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, Padre Pio experienced great tiredness.[44] The next day, on September 22, 1968, Padre Pio was supposed to offer a Solemn High Mass, but feeling weak and fearing that he might be too ill to complete the Mass, he asked his superior if he might say a Low Mass instead, just as he had done daily for years. Due to the large number of pilgrims present for the Mass, Padre Pio's superior decided the Solemn High Mass must proceed, and so Padre Pio, in the spirit of obedience to his superior, went on to celebrate the Solemn High Mass. While celebrating the Solemn High Mass, he appeared extremely weak and in a fragile state. His voice was weak when he said the Mass and after the Mass had concluded, he was so weakened that he almost collapsed as he was descending the altar steps. He needed help from a great many of his Capuchin confreres. This would be Padre Pio's last celebration of the Mass.

Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his last confession and renewed his Franciscan vows.[13] As was customary, he had his rosary in his hands, though he did not have the strength to say the Hail Marys aloud. Till the end, he repeated the words "Gesù, Maria" (Jesus, Mary). At around 2:30 a.m., he said, "I see two mothers" (taken to mean his mother and Mary).[44] At 2:30 a.m. he died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, "Maria!"[3]

His body was buried on September 26 in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. His Requiem Mass was attended by over 100,000 people. He was often heard to say, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death."[44] The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end, state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without even leaving a scar. Only a red mark "as if drawn by a red pencil" remained on his side which then disappeared.[44]

Reported supernatural phenomena[edit]

Padre Pio celebrating mass. His Mass would often last hours, as the mystic received visions and experienced sufferings. Note the coverings worn on his hands to cover his stigmata.

Padre Pio was said to have had the gift of reading souls, the ability to bilocate (according to eyewitness accounts), among other supernatural phenomena. He was said to communicate with angels and worked favors and healings before they were requested of him.[45] The reports of supernatural phenomena surrounding Padre Pio attracted fame and legend. Even the Vatican was initially skeptical.

In the 1999 book, Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker, a segment by Irish priest Malachy Gerard Carroll describes the story of Gemma de Giorgi, a Sicilian girl whose blindness was believed to have been cured during a visit to Padre Pio.[46] Gemma, who was brought to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1947 by her grandmother, was born without pupils. During her trip to see Padre Pio, the little girl began to see objects including a steamboat and the sea.[46][47] Gemma's grandmother did not believe the child had been healed. After Gemma forgot to ask Padre Pio for grace during her confession, her grandmother implored the priest to ask God to restore her sight.[46] Padre Pio told her, "The child must not weep and neither must you for the child sees and you know she sees."[46] Oculists were unable to determine how she gained vision. Padre Pio believed the love of God is inseparable from suffering and that suffering all things for the sake of God is the way for the soul to reach God. He felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell.

Visit of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, General Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, to Padre Pio. Padre Pio is kissing the episcopal ring

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, senior exorcist of Vatican City stated in an interview that Padre Pio was able to distinguish between real apparitions of Jesus, Mary and the saints and the illusions created by the devil by carefully analysing the state of his mind and the feelings produced in him during the apparitions. In one of Padre Pio's letters, he states that he remained patient in the midst of his trials because of his firm belief that Jesus, Mary, his guardian angel, St. Joseph and St. Francis were always with him and helped him always.[48] During his period of spiritual suffering, his followers believe that Padre Pio was attacked by the devil, both physically and spiritually.[14] His followers also believe that the devil used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio's torments. These included apparitions as an "angel of light" and the alteration or destruction of letters to and from his spiritual directors. Padre Augustine confirmed this when he said:

The Devil appeared as young girls that danced naked without any clothes on, as Christ Crucified, as a young friend of the friars, as the Spiritual Father or as the Provincial Father; as Pope Pius X, a Guardian Angel, as St. Francis and as Our Lady.[48]

Now, twenty-two days have passed since Jesus allowed the devils to vent their anger on me. My Father, my whole body is bruised from the beatings that I have received to the present time by our enemies. Several times, they have even torn off my shirt so that they could strike my exposed flesh.[48]

Padre Pio is said to have engaged in physical combat with Satan and his minions, similar to incidents described concerning St. John Vianney, from which Padre Pio is said to have sustained extensive bruising. On the day of Padre Pio's death, mystic and Servant of God Maria Esperanza de Bianchini from Venezuela reported that he appeared to her in a vision and said, "I have come to say good-bye. My time has come. It is your turn."[49][50][51] Her husband then watched as his wife's face transfigured into that of Padre Pio.[50] On the following day, they heard of the death of Padre Pio.[49][51] Witnesses say they later saw Esperanza herself levitating during Mass and engaging in bilocation.[51] Padre Domenico da Cese, a fellow Capuchin stigmatist, reported that on Sunday, September 22, 1968, he saw Padre Pio kneeling in prayer before the Holy Face of Manoppello, although it was known that Padre Pio had not left his room.[52]

Sainthood and later recognition[edit]

Pio of Pietrelcina's sculpture in the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in San Giovanni Rotondo
The Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in San Giovanni Rotondo

Padre Pio was considered holy even during his lifetime. In 1971, Pope Paul VI, three years after Padre Pio’s death speaking to the superiors of the Capuchin Order, said of him:

In 1982, the Holy See authorized the archbishop of Manfredonia to open an investigation to determine whether Padre Pio should be considered a saint. The investigation went on for seven years, and in 1990 Padre Pio was declared a Servant of God, the first step in the progression to canonization.

Beginning in 1990, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints debated how heroically Padre Pio had lived his life, and in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared him venerable. A discussion of the effects of his life on others followed, including the cure of an Italian woman, Consiglia de Martino, which had been associated with Padre Pio's intercession. In 1999, on the advice of the Congregation, Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio blessed.

After further consideration of Padre Pio's virtues and ability to do good even after his death, including discussion of another healing attributed to his intercession, the pope declared Padre Pio a saint on June 16, 2002.[38] An estimated 300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony.[38]

On July 1, 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II dedicated the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church, built in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo to the memory of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.[54] A statue of Saint Pio in Messina, Sicily attracted attention in 2002 when it wept tears of blood.[55]

St. Pio of Pietrelcina is currently known as the patron saint of civil defense volunteers, after a group of 160 of them petitioned the Italian Bishops’ conference. The bishops forwarded the request to the Vatican, which gave its approval to the designation.[56] He is also “less officially” known as the patron saint of stress relief and the “January blues,” after the Catholic Enquiry Office in London proclaimed him as such. They designated the most depressing day of the year, identified as January 22, as Don’t Worry Be Happy Day, in honor of Padre Pio’s famous advice: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”[57]

Padre Pio has become one of the world's most popular saints. There are more than 3,000 "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" worldwide, with three million members. There are parishes in Vineland and Lavallette, New Jersey, and Sydney, Australia, and shrines in Buena, New Jersey, and Batangas, Philippines, dedicated to Padre Pio. A 2006 survey by the magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics pray to Padre Pio for intercession than to any other figure. (This prayer, more properly understood as a request that the saint intercede to God, is not to be confused with worship, which the Catholic Church teaches is due only to God himself.)[58]

A statue of Padre Pio will be built on a hill near the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in the southern province of Puglia, Italy, close to the town where he is commemorated. The project will cost several million pounds, with the money to be raised from his devotees around the world. The statue will be coated in a special photovoltaic paint which will enable it to trap the sun's heat and produce solar energy, making it an "ecological" religious icon.[59]

The body of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.

On March 3, 2008, the body of St. Pio was exhumed from his crypt, 40 years after his death, so that his remains could be prepared for display. A church statement described the body as being in "fair condition". Archbishop Domenico D'Ambrosio, Papal legate to the shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, stated "the top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved".[60] Archbishop D’Ambrosio also confirmed in a communiqué that “the stigmata are not visible.”[61] He went on to say that St. Pio's hands "looked like they had just undergone a manicure". It was hoped that morticians would be able to restore the face so that it will be recognizable. However, because of its deterioration, his face was covered with a lifelike silicone mask.[62]

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, celebrated Mass for 15,000 devotees on April 24 at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace, San Giovanni Rotondo, before the body went on display in a crystal, marble, and silver sepulcher in the crypt of the monastery.[63] Padre Pio is wearing his brown Capuchin habit with a white silk stole embroidered with crystals and gold thread. His hands hold a large wooden cross. 800,000 pilgrims worldwide, mostly from Italy, made reservations to view the body up to December 2008, but only 7,200 people a day were able to file past the crystal coffin.[64][65][66] Officials extended the display through September, 2009.[67]

Saint Pio's remains were placed in the church of Saint Pio, which is beside San Giovanni Rotondo. In April 2010 they were moved to a special golden "Cripta".[68]

In popular culture[edit]

The Padre Pio Bookshop on Vauxhall Bridge Road
  • Saint Pio and the validity of his claims are discussed in the novel The Shroud Codex by Jerome R. Corsi, ISBN 978-1-4391-9041-8, Threshold Editions, 2010.
  • In the 1998 film Stigmata, one of the main characters, a priest named Father Kiernan, while investigating a possible case of stigmata afflicting a woman played by Patricia Arquette, mentions Padre Pio and wrongly claims he only had two wounds in a conversation with her, during which a photo of Padre Pio as a young man is shown on screen.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Saint Pio of Pietrelcina". BBC. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ ""Padre Pio de Pietrelcina",- PADRE PIO DA PIETRELCINA". Vatican News Service. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ruffin, Bernard C. (1991). Padre Pio: The True Story. Our Sunday Visitor. p. 444. ISBN 978-0-87973-673-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Gerhold, Ryan (2007-02-20). "The Second St. Francis". The Angelus: 12–18. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Padre Pio the Man Part 1". Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  6. ^ a b c Nolan, Geraldine. "Padre Pio A living Crucifix". Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary Editions. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  7. ^ "Saints". The American Catholic. 
  8. ^ Convento Pietralcina. "La chiesetta di Sant'Anna". http://www.cappuccinipietrelcina.com. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  9. ^ R. Allegri, I miracoli di Padre Pio p.21.
  10. ^ "Padre Pio e Escrivà de Balaguer refrattari al Novus Ordo? Nuove prove". messainlatino.it (in Italian). 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  11. ^ Accattoli, Luigi (2009-03-04). "La leggenda di Padre Pio che rifiuta il nuovo messale". luigiaccattoli.it (in Italian). Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  12. ^ "Chronology", Padre Pio Devotions, San Diego, California
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Padre Pio the Man Part 2". Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  14. ^ a b Pelletier, Joseph A (2007-02-20). "PADRE PIO, MARY, AND THE ROSARY". Garabandal. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  15. ^ a b c "Religion: The Stigmatist". Time. Dec 19, 1949. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Roman Catholics: A Padre's Patience". Time. Apr 24, 1964. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  17. ^ Michael Freze (1989). They Bore the Wounds of Christ: The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata. OSV Publishing. pp. 283–285. ISBN 0-87973-422-1. 
  18. ^ Padre Pio
  19. ^ Padre Pio
  20. ^ Ruffin, Bernard. Padre Pio: The True Story; 1991 OSV Press ISBN 0-87973-673-9 pages 160–163
  21. ^ "Padre Pio's Cell". Padre Pio Foundation. 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  22. ^ a b c d Maria De Vito said, "I was an admirer of Padre Pio and I met him for the first time on July 31, 1919...he gave me personally an empty bottle, and asked if I would act as a chauffeur to transport it back from Foggia to San Giovanni Rotondo with four grams of pure carbolic acid. ... He explained that the acid was for disinfecting syringes for injections. He also asked for other things, such as Valda pastilles." Moore, Malcolm (2007-10-24). "Italy's Padre Pio 'faked his stigmata with acid'". The Daily Telegraph (Rome). Retrieved 2012-04-25. . Moore, Malcolm (2007-10-24). "Italy's Padre Pio 'faked his stigmata with acid'". The Daily Telegraph (Rome). Retrieved 2008-01-19. .
  23. ^ Maria De Vito: «Io sono stata un’ammiratrice di P. Pio e l’ho conosciuto di presenza la prima volta il 31 luglio 1919. Dopo essere ritornata sono rimasta a San Giovanni Rotondo un mese. Durante il mese in cui ho avuto occasione di avvicinarlo più volte al giorno, ne ho riportata sempre ottima impressione. La vigilia della mia partenza per Foggia, il P. Pio mi chiamò in disparte e con tutta segretezza, imponendo il segreto a me in relazione anche agli stessi frati suoi confratelli, mi consegnò personalmente una boccettina vuota, richiedendomi che gliela facessi pervenire a mezzo dello “chauffeur” che presta servizio nell’autocarro per trasporto passeggeri da Foggia a San Giovanni Rotondo con dentro quattro grammi di acido fenico puro, spiegandomi che l’acido serviva per la disinfezione delle siringhe occorrenti alle iniezioni che egli praticava ai novizi. Insieme mi venivano richiesti altri oggetti come pastiglie Valda, nasalina, etc. che io mandai». Tornielli, Andrea (2007-10-23). "Nuovo attacco a Padre Pio: 'Stimmate false'". il Giornale (Rome). Retrieved 2012-04-25. . See also: Tornielli, Andrea (2010). Padre Pio, l’ultimo sospetto. La verità sul frate delle stimmate. Piemme. p. 240. ISBN 978-88-566-1521-0. , cf. Gaeta, Saverio (2008-03-03). "Una recente querelle su Padre Pio". Vita pastorale (Italy). Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  24. ^ Rega (2005), p. 55
  25. ^ Schiffman, Richard (2011-11-28). "Did Padre Pio Fake His Stigmata Wounds?". Huffington Post. 
  26. ^ The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer by Liz Kelly 2004 ISBN 0-8294-2024-X pages 79 and 86
  27. ^ a b c d Mc Gregor, O.C.S.O, Augustine; Fr. Alessio Parente, O.F.M. Cap. (1974 St. Padre Pio). The Spirituality of Padre Pio. San Giovanni Rotondo, FG, Italy: Our Lady of Grace Monastery. Retrieved 2008-01-19.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  28. ^ a b c "First class relic of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina at St. John Cantius Church". Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  29. ^ R.Allegri, I miracoli di Padre Pio, p.141
  30. ^ "Close encounters with Padre Pio". PadrePio. Retrieved 2014-05-04. 
  31. ^ a b c d e f g Allen, John L. (December 28, 2001). "For all who feel put upon by the Vatican: A new patron saint of Holy Rehabilitation". National Catholic Reporter 1 (18). Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  32. ^ http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=0112-baruch
  33. ^ Vallely, Paul (2002-06-17). "Vatican makes a saint of the man it silenced". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  34. ^ Moore, Malcolm (23 October 2007). "Italy's Padre Pio 'faked his stigmata with acid'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  35. ^ Marie osb, Dom Antoine (2000-04-24). "Letter on Blessed Pader Pio: Stigmata – Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist – Suffering". Retrieved 2006-09-27. 
  36. ^ Fisher, Ian; Daniele Pinto (25 April 2008). "SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO JOURNAL; Italian Saint Stirs Up a Mix Of Faith and Commerce". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  37. ^ Kwitny, Jonathan (March 1997). Man of the Century: The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 768. ISBN 978-0-8050-2688-7. 
  38. ^ a b c Zahn, Paula (2002-06-17). "Padre Pio Granted Sainthood". CNN. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  39. ^ Dziwisz, Stanisław (2008). A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-52374-5. 
  40. ^ http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/word1228.htm
  41. ^ Rega, Frank M. (2005). Padre Pio and America. TAN Books. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-89555-820-6. 
  42. ^ The Rosary: A Path Into Prayer by Liz Kelly 2004 ISBN 0-8294-2024-X pages 79 and 86
  43. ^ Ylva-Kristina Sjöblom. Padre Pio. Catholica. pp. 10, 85. 
  44. ^ a b c d Schug, Rev. John (1987). A Padre Pio Profile. Huntington. ISBN 978-0-87973-856-3. 
  45. ^ Carroll-Cruz, Joan (March 1997). Mysteries Marvels and Miracles In the Lives of the Saints. Illinois: TAN Books. p. 581. ISBN 978-0-89555-541-0. 
  46. ^ a b c d Kalvelage, Bro. Francis Mary (1999). Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker. Ignatius Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-89870-770-0. 
  47. ^ "THE HEALING OF GEMMA DI GIORGI". THE HEALING OF GEMMA DI GIORGI. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  48. ^ a b c "Padre Pio da Pietrelcina Epistolario I° (1910–1922)". Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  49. ^ a b Brooks, Stevern, Where are the Mantles, p. 49-51, Xulon Books
  50. ^ a b Brown, Michael The Incredible Story Of Maria Esperanza Spirit Daily
  51. ^ a b c Davidson, Linda Kay and David Martin Gitlitz, Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland : an encyclopedia, Volume 1, p. 59, ABC-CLIO 2002
  52. ^ The Face of God, Paul Badde, page 231.
  53. ^ "By Cardinal O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. Prayer, etc". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  54. ^ Hooper, John (2004-07-02). "Guardian Unlimited Arts". Monumental church dedicated to controversial saint Padre Pio (London). Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  55. ^ "Italian statue weeps blood". BBC News. 2002-03-06. Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  56. ^ "Italy makes St. Padre Pio patron of civil defense volunteers". The Georgia Bulletin. 2004-03-30. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  57. ^ "Saint Pio of Pietrelcina". BBC Religions. 2009-07-31. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  58. ^ "Exhumed body of Italian saint draws thousands". Reuters. 24 April 2006.
  59. ^ Squires, Nick (2009-08-05). "Italy to build solar-energy-producing statue of saint". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  60. ^ "Italy exhumes revered monk's body". BBC Online. 3 March 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  61. ^ "St. Padre Pio's Body Exhumed". Zenit. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  62. ^ Moore, Malcolm. "Padre Pio pilgrims flock to see saint's body" Telegraph. 25 April 2008
  63. ^ www.catholicnewsagency, Faithful to be able to venerate exhumed remains of Padre Pio
  64. ^ iht.com, Faithful await display of Catholic mystic's body
  65. ^ www.stripes.com, Thousands in Italy flock to see exhumed saint Padre Pio
  66. ^ heraldextra.com, Mystic monk is exhumed second time
  67. ^ www.theaustralian.news.com.au, Corpse of mystic monk moves the crowd
  68. ^ Article (in Italian) with photos of Padre Pio golden Cripta

External links[edit]

Unofficial biographies[edit]