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Padre Pio, also known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Italian: Pio da Pietrelcina), O.F.M. Cap. (25 May 1887 – 23 September 1968), was a friar, priest, stigmatist, and mystic,[1] now venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Born Francesco Forgione, he was given the name of Pius (Italian: Pio) when he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Padre Pio
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, OFM. Cap.
Padre Pio.jpg
Priest, Religious, Mystic, Stigmatist, and Confessor
BornFrancesco Forgione
(1887-05-25)25 May 1887
Pietrelcina, Benevento, Kingdom of Italy
Died23 September 1968(1968-09-23) (aged 81)
San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified2 May 1999, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized16 June 2002, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Major shrineSanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy
Feast23 September
AttributesStigmata, Capuchin habit
PatronagePietrelcina, Italy; civil defense volunteers; adolescents; stress relief; January blues; Italy

Padre Pio became famous for exhibiting stigmata for most of his life, thereby generating much interest and controversy. He was both beatified (1999) and canonized (2002) by Pope John Paul II.[2]

The Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina is located in San Giovanni Rotondo, Province of Foggia, Italy.



Early lifeEdit

Pietrelcina, province of Benevento, the birthplace of Padre Pio

Francesco Forgione was born to Grazio Mario Forgione (1860–1946) and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio (1859–1929) on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, a town in the southern Italian region of Campania.[3] His parents were 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 server in this same chapel. He had 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 worked on the land up to the age of 10, looking after the small flock of sheep the family owned.[citation needed]

Pietrelcina was a town where feast days of saints were celebrated throughout the year, and the Forgione family was deeply religious. They attended Mass daily, 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 narrated Bible stories to their children. His mother said that Francesco claimed to be 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.[citation needed]

According to the diary of Father Agostino da San Marco (who was later his spiritual director in San Marco in Lamis) the young Francesco was afflicted with a number of illnesses. At six he suffered from severe gastroenteritis. At ten he caught typhoid fever.[citation needed]

The conventual cell of Padre Pio

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 said to have been drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin who was in the countryside seeking donations. When Francesco 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 Order. The friars there informed them that they were interested in accepting Francesco into their community, but he needed to be better educated.[5]

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


The church-shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio's own church
The altar of Padre Pio's church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy
Interior of Padre Pio's church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy

Commencing his seven-year study for the priesthood, Fra Pio travelled to the friary of Saint Francis of Assisi in Umbria.[5] At 17, he fell ill, complaining of loss of appetite, insomnia, exhaustion, fainting spells, and migraines. He vomited frequently and could digest only milk and cheese. Religious devotees point to this time that inexplicable phenomena allegedly began to occur. During prayers for example, Pio appeared to others to be in a stupor, as if he were absent. One of Pio's fellow friars later claimed to have seen him in ecstasy, and allegedly levitating above the ground.[8]

In June 1905, Pio's health worsened to such an extent that his superiors decided to send him to a mountain convent, in the hope that the change of air would do him good. This had little impact, however, and doctors advised that he return home. Even there his health failed to improve. Despite this, On 27 January 1907, he still made his solemn profession.

In 1910, Pio was subsequently 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.[9]

On 4 September 1916, however, Pio was ordered to return to his community life. He moved to an agricultural community, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, located in the Gargano Mountains in San Giovanni Rotondo in the Province of Foggia. At that time the community numbered in total seven friars. He went on to remain at San Giovanni Rotondo until his death in 1968, except for a period of military service. In the priesthood, Padre Pio was known to perform a number of successful conversions to Catholicism.[10]

First World WarEdit

When World War I started, four friars from this community were selected for military service in the Italian army. 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 15 November 1915, he was drafted and on December 6, assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples. Due to poor health, he was continually discharged and recalled until on 16 March 1918, he was declared unfit for service and discharged completely.[11]

Later life and popularityEdit

The Hospital that was built on Padre Pio's initiative in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. (Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza)
The Saint Benedict Medal was a gift Padre Pio often gave as a present to his visitors.[12]

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 communion wafers without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and pleasant-smelling wounds.[14]

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. 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]

Pio was devoted to rosary meditations and said:[15]

"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 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.”[16]

Many people who heard of him traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to meet him and confess to him, ask for help, or have their curiosity satisfied. Padre Pio's mother died at the village around the convent in 1928. Later, in 1938, Padre Pio had his old father Grazio living with him in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo. His brother Michele also moved into the village with their father. Padre Pio's father lived in a little house outside the convent, until his death in 1946.[17]

Pio as part of Clerical fascismEdit

San Giovanni Rotondo, a remote small town in a barren landscape, with an illiteracy rate in 1920 of more than 90%, was initially the political environment of Pio.[18] After the First World War, Italy entered a political upheaval with civil-warlike phenomena, confronting the socialist and fascist camps. On the socialist side, there were strong anti-religious and anti-clerical currents. On October 14, 1920, a massacre occurred in San Giovanni Rotondo, during which a march of the Socialists by the conservative bloc, the Fascio d'Ordine, formed from the (Catholic) party Popular Party, Liberals and the veterans organization was attacked. Eleven peasants died, all from the socialist camp.[19] A few weeks later, the chairman of the conservative bloc contacted Padre Pio. Later, the organization of the veterans let him bless the flag at the feast Assumption of the Virgin (15.8.1920).[20] Mediated by a young woman whose spiritual leader was Pio, a little later the meeting between him and the fascist politician Giuseppe Caradonna from the province of Foggia happened.[21] Pio became the confessor of Caradonna and his militia members.[22] According to Luzzatto, the contact with Caradonna led to the establishment of a kind of praetorian guard around Pio, who was meant to prevent him from being removed from San Giuliano Rotondo by the church.[23] From such beginnings, the clerical-fascist mixture was formed of which Padre Pio was an important part, according to the reconstruction of Luzzatto. According to Luzzatto, Pio had clearly sided with the veterans. Conversely, socialists were often anti-clerical and also publicly criticized Pio.[24]

An important follower of Pio was Emanuele Brunatto, one of the first biographers of Pio (biography published in 1926 under the pseudonym Giuseppe De Rossi).[25] Brunatto mediated between the followers of Pio and the leaders of the fascist movement. The publisher of this book and other biographies of Pio was Giorgio Berlutti, himself part of the intellectual support of the March on Rome.[26] According to Luzzatto, the publication of the biographies was part of the attempt to make Padre Pio known to the fascist opinion leaders.[27] Brunatto worked possibly from 1931, but no later than 1935 on behalf of the fascist government and funded by her in France as a spy.[28] Pio was associated in several ways with his biographer Brunatto, who acted as executive director of a shareholder company named "Anonima Brevetti Zarlatti", which sold patents for diesel locomotives.[29] Brunatto was involved in making Padre Pio - despite his vow of poverty - the owner of this company by donation. Trusting in Pio the shareholders bought stocks. After the company went bankrupt, the shareholders had the corresponding damage. Luzatto used handwritten notes of Pio to prove hat he was directly involved in the business of "Anonima Brevetti Zarlatti." [29] The historian Luzzatto describes Brunatto as a "chronic liar, a ruthless extortionist, and an incorrigible double-dealer" and cheater who brought together the followers of Padre Pio with persons from the fascist hierarchy as well as leading figures from the Vatican.[30] According Luzatto, the money for financing the hospital "Casa sollievo della sofferenza" came directly from Brunatto, who had made a fortune in black market transactions in occupied France [29]

Investigation by Church authoritiesEdit

Because of the unusual abilities Pio was said to possess, the Holy See instituted investigations of the related accounts. The local bishop, Pasquale Gagliardi, did not believe Pio’s alleged miracles, suggesting that his Capuchin brothers were making a display out of the monk to gain financial advantage. When Pius XI became pope in 1922, the Vatican became extremely doubtful. Padre Pio was subject to numerous investigations.[31]

The Vatican initially imposed severe sanctions on him in the 1920s to reduce publicity about him: it forbade him from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, showing his stigmata publicly, and communicating with Padre Benedetto, his spiritual director. Pio was to be relocated to another convent in northern Italy.[32] The local people threatened to riot, and the Vatican left him where he was.[16] A second plan for removal was also changed.[33] Nevertheless, from 1921 to 1922 he was prevented from publicly performing his priestly duties, such as hearing confessions and saying Mass.[34] From 1924 to 1931, the Holy See made statements denying that the events in Pio's life were due to any divine cause.[13]

Softening of Church restrictionsEdit

By 1933, the tide began to turn. Pope Pius XI ordered a reversal of the ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass, arguing, "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed."[13] In 1934, the friar 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, even encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.

In 1940, 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 finally opened in 1956.[13][34] 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.[31][35] Padre Pio's detractors suggested there had been misappropriation of funds.[31]


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

Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81. His health deteriorated in the 1960s but he continued his spiritual works. On 21 September 1968, the day after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, Padre Pio felt great fatigue.[36] The next day, on September 22, 1968, he was supposed to offer a Solemn Mass, but feeling weak, he asked his superior if he might say a Low Mass instead, 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 Mass must proceed. Padre Pio carried out his duties but appeared extremely weak and fragile. His voice was weak and, after the Mass had concluded, he nearly collapsed while walking down the altar steps. He needed help from his Capuchin brothers. This was his last celebration of the Mass.

Early in the morning of 23 September 1968, 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).[36] At 2:30 a.m. he died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo. With his last breath he whispered, "Maria!"[3]

His body was buried on 26 September in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. His Requiem Mass was attended by over 100,000 people. He had often said, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death."[36] The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without a scar. Only a red mark "as if drawn by a red pencil" remained on his side but it disappeared.[36]

Paranormal phenomenaEdit

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 hide his stigmata.

Padre Pio was said to have had the gift of reading souls, the ability to bilocate, among other supernatural phenomena. He was said to communicate with angels and worked favors and healings before they were requested of him.[37] The reports of supernatural phenomena surrounding Padre Pio attracted fame and legend. 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.[38] 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.[38][39] 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.[38] Padre Pio told her, "The child must not weep and neither must you for the child sees and you know she sees."[38]


Father 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 [40]

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:

Padre Pio helped by other friars

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.[40]

Padre Pio reported engaging in physical combat with Satan and his minions, similar to incidents described concerning St. John Vianney, from which he was 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."[41][42][43] Her husband saw his wife's face transfigured into that of Padre Pio.[42] On the following day, they learned that Padre Pio had died.[41][43] Witnesses say they later saw Esperanza levitating during Mass and engaging in bilocation.[43] Padre Domenico da Cese, a fellow Capuchin stigmatist, reported that on 22 September 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.[44]


Already in a letter dated March 21, 1912, to his spiritual companion and confessor, Father Agostino, Father Pio wrote of his devotion to the mystical body of Christ and the intuition that he, Pio, one day himself would bear the stigmata of Christ. Luzzatto points out that in this letter Father Pio uses unrecognized passages from a book by the stigmatized mystic Gemma Galgani. Later Pio denied knowing or owning the cited book.[45]

On 20 September 1918, while hearing confessions, Padre Pio claimed to have had his first occurrence of the stigmata: bodily marks, pain, and bleeding in locations supposedly corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. This phenomenon is said to have continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the stigmata purportedly smelled of perfume or flowers.[citation needed] Though Padre Pio said he would have preferred to suffer in secret, by early 1919, news about the stigmatic friar began to spread in the wider world. He was said to act embarrassed by this condition and most later photographs show him wearing red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleeding occurred.[31] At the time of Padre Pio's death, however, his body appeared unwounded with no sign of scarring.[46]

Padre Pio showing the stigmata (detail from a photo from August 19, 1919) [47]

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.[48] 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.[48]

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 wrote that he did not wish the pain to be removed, only the visible wounds, since at the time he purportedly considered them to be an indescribable and almost unbearable humiliation.[48] 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 suffering the pain of the crown of thorns and the scourging. He did not define the frequency of these occurrences but said that he had been suffering from them at least once weekly for some years.[48]

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

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[49]....the pain was so intense that I began to feel as if I were dying on the cross.[50]

The stigmata were studied by physicians, some hired by the vatican to do independent investigations. Some claimed that the wounds were unexplainable and never seem to have become infected.[31][51] Despite seeming to heal they would then reappear periodically.[52] They were examined in the 1920s by Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, as well as by Doctor Giorgio Festa (a private practitioner). Professor Giuseppe Bastianelli (physician to Pope Benedict XV) agreed that there were wounds apparent but made no further recorded comment. Pathologist Dr. Amico Bignami of the University of Rome also observed the wounds but did not make a formal diagnosis.[53] 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 Pio's hands in 1954 and found no abnormality in the bone structure.[54]

Critics (both contemporary and posthumous) have accused Pio of faking the stigmata, with at least one suggesting he used carbolic acid to make the wounds. The historian Sergio Luzzatto has recounted that in 1919, according to one document in the Vatican's archive, Maria De Vito (the cousin of a local pharmacist at Foggia) testified that the young Pio bought four grams of carbolic acid in 1919. Therein, Maria De Vito states:

"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."[55]

The Catholic Anti-Defamation League said Luzzatto was spreading "anti-Catholic libels" and needed to learn more about religion.[55][56]

Some Catholic clerics have dismissed charges that carbolic acid was used to fake the stigmata: "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.”[55][57][58]


A strong believer in Christian meditation, Padre Pio stated: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him."[15]

World War I continued 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 27 July of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between 5 and 7 August, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side.[4][13]

As a result, Padre Pio claimed to have received 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 within Christian mysticism.

Many books about Padre Pio included a third-class relic (cloth) on a prayer card. This is an older one from when he was only Venerable ... Today he is Saint Pio.
Sculpture of Padre Pio with Jesus on the cross in Prato, Italy
A sculpture of Padre Pio in Italy raised in October 2006

The occasion of transverberation coincided with a 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.[49]

On 20 September 1918, accounts state that the pains of the transverberation had ceased and Pio was in "profound peace."[4] On that day, as he was engaged in prayer in the choir loft in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, he received another celestial vision which led to religious ecstasy. When the ecstasy ended, Pio claimed to have received the visible stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. This time, the stigmata were permanent. They stayed visible for the next fifty years of his life.[13]


In 1947, Father Karol Józef Wojtyła (later 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."[59] Stickler said that Wojtyła believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a cardinal.[60] John Paul's secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz, denies the prediction,[61] while George Weigel's biography Witness to Hope, which contains an account of the same visit, does not mention it.

According to tradition,[62] Bishop Wojtyła wrote to Padre Pio in 1962 to ask him to pray for Wanda Poltawska, a friend in Poland who was suffering from cancer. Later, Poltawska's cancer was apparently found to be in spontaneous remission. Medical professionals were seemingly unable to offer an explanation for the phenomenon.[63]

Posthumous venerationEdit

Padre Pio with Padre Clemente Tomay, his friend and confessor

In 1971, three years after his death, Pope Paul VI said to the superiors of the Capuchin Order about Pio:

In 1982, the Holy See authorized the archbishop of Manfredonia to open an investigation to determine whether Pio should be canonized. The investigation continued for seven years. In 1990 Pio was declared a Servant of God, the first step in the process of canonization. The investigation however did not lead to any public factual clearance by the Church on his previous 'excommunication' or on the allegations that his stigmata were not of a supernatural kind. Moreover, Pio's stigmata were remarkably left out of the obligatory investigations for the canonization process, in order to avoid obstacles prohibiting a successful closure.

Beginning in 1990, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints debated how 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. Cases were studied such as a reported cure of an Italian woman, Consiglia de Martino, associated with Padre Pio's intercession. In 1999, on the advice of the Congregation, John Paul II declared Padre Pio blessed. A media offensive by the Capuchins was able to realise a broad acceptation of the contested saint in society.[65]

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, John Paul II declared Padre Pio a saint on 16 June 2002.[60] An estimated 300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony in Rome.[60]

On 1 July 2004, John Paul II dedicated the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (sometimes referred as Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church), built in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo to the memory of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.[66]

On 3 March 2008, the body of Pio was exhumed from his crypt, forty 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 Umberto 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".[67] Archbishop D’Ambrosio also confirmed in a communiqué that “the stigmata are not visible.”[68] He said that 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.[69]

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.[70] 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.[71][72][73] Officials extended the display through September, 2009.[74]

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".[75]

A statue of Pio in Messina, Sicily attracted attention in 2002 when it supposedly wept tears of blood.[76]

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina is known[by whom?] as the patron saint of civil defence volunteers, after a group of 160 petitioned the Italian Bishops’ conference for this designation. The bishops forwarded the request to the Vatican, which gave its approval to the designation.[77] 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.”[78]

Padre Pio has become one of the world's most popular saints.[79] There are more than 3,000 "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" worldwide, with three million members. The first St Padre Pio parish in the world was established 16 June 2002 in Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada. There are parishes in Vineland and Lavallette, New Jersey, and Sydney, Australia, and shrines in Buena, New Jersey, and Santo Tomas, 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.[80]

It[clarification needed] was announced in 2009 that a renewable energy statue of Padre Pio was to be built on a hill near the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in the south-eastern province of Apulia, Italy, the town where he is commemorated. The project would cost several million pounds, with the money to be raised from the saint's devotees around the world. The statue would be coated in a special photovoltaic paint, enabling it to trap the sun's heat and produce solar energy, making it an "ecological" religious icon.[81]

The altar containing the body of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo
The new church-shrine of Padre Pio

The remains of Saint Pio were brought to the Vatican for veneration during the 2015–2016 Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Saint Pio and Saint Leopold Mandic were designated as saint-confessors to inspire people to become reconciled to the Church and to God, by the confession of their sins.[82]


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, and was unable to examine his stigmata.[83] According to Gemelli, Padre Pio was "an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people's credulity."[84] Gemelli speculated that Padre Pio kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. As a result, Padre Pio was required to wrap the wounds in cloth. For many years, he wore fingerless gloves that concealed his wounds. The bleeding continued for some 50 years until the wounds closed within hours of his death.[33]

According to the historian Sergio Luzzatto, a document found in the Vatican's archive reveals the testimony of a cousin of a pharmacist who said that the young Padre Pio bought four grams of carbolic acid in 1919. The archbishop of Manfredonia, Pasquale Gagliardi, reported this as evidence that Padre Pio could have effected the stigmata with acid. This suggestion was examined and dismissed by the Vatican.[85]

Pope Paul VI (pope from 1963 to 1978), in the mid-1960s dismissed all accusations against Padre Pio.[31][33]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit