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San Pio da Pietrelcina

Francesco Forgione born in Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887; he became a priest in 1910 choosing the name of Padre Pio, and in 1916 retired to San Giovanni Rotondo, which he never left until his death on September 23, 1968. In 1918 he received the Sacred Stigmata. The Church recognized that he wrought miracles in life and even after his death in 1968. On 2 May 1999 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, who canonized him in 2002.
Padre Pio

Still during his life he was surrounded by a popular veneration of impressive proportions, gaining fame as a miracle worker with supernatural abilities, and was therefore also the object of harsh criticism and suspicion. When he died on September 23, 1968, aged 81, the stigmata disappeared from his body; about a hundred thousand people came from everywhere to his funeral, a testimonial of the devotion of the faithful throughout the world for one of the most beloved saints of the 20th century.

Biography

Francesco Forgione was born in Pietrelcina, Benevento, May 25, 1887 from Grazio and Giuseppa, poor but very devout peasants, who every night in the family recited the rosary.

The supernatural comes very early in the life of the future saint: as a child he received frequent visits of Jesus and Mary, he saw demons and angels, but because he thought that everyone had these faculties he did not tell anyone.

On 22 January 1903, at the age of sixteen, he entered the convent of Capuchin Franciscans taking the name of Brother Pio of Pietrelcina. He became a priest seven years later on August 10, 1910. He wanted to leave as a missionary to distant lands, but his health was too weak for that.

San Pio da Pietrelcina

The first years of priesthood were made more difficult by his poor state of health, so that his superiors sent him back several times to Pietrelcina, in the family home, where the climate was more congenial to him. Padre Pio had very bad lungs, and doctors didn't give him long to live. The disease was added to the terrible oppression of the devil, that according to the friar never left him in peace, torturing him in body and spirit.

In 1916 the superiors moved Padre Pio to San Giovanni Rotondo, in the Gargano, a place that he never left. Here, in the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, an extraordinary adventure begins for Padre Pio as a miracle worker and an apostle of faith.

Countless numbers of men and women, from the Gargano and other parts of Italy, crowded to his confessional, where he spent up to 16 hours a day to lead souls back to God, drawing his strength from prayer, and not without great physical and moral sufferings.

On 20 September 1918, Padre Pio received the stigmata of the Passion of Christ, which will remain open, painful and bleeding for over fifty years. He was visited by a large number of doctors, suffered misunderstandings and slanders, was submitted to canonical defamatory inspections, that the friar of the stigmata, as a "son of obedience" accepted with seraphic patience. He was also suspended "a divinis" and only after several years was acquitted and reinstated in his priestly ministry.

In the 1940s, to fight with the weapon of prayer the terrible reality of World War II, Padre Pio gave start to the Prayer Groups, among the most popular in the church today, with over two hundred thousand devotees scattered throughout the continents.

With the "House for the Relief of Suffering" they are his spiritual heritage, the sign of a life dedicated to prayer and marked by a fervent devotion to the Virgin, by whom the friar felt protected in his daily struggle with the devil, the "cosaccio", and twice the Virgin miraculously healed him, in 1911 and 1959. In the latter case the doctors had given up on him just when, after the arrival of the statue of Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima in San Giovanni Rotondo, August 6, 1959, Padre Pio was suddenly healed, to the amazement and joy of his devotees.

On 22 September 1968 there was a great celebration of the faithfuls for the 50th anniversary of his stigmata. Padre Pio had been very ill for some days already, but he wanted to celebrate Mass, which he did sitting, with a special dispensation. He recited the Pater Noster in Latin, as usual, and collapsed after saying "libera nos a malo...". The event was filmed, and clearly shows his hands were completely healed. That night, at 2 am, assisted by doctors and fellow friars, the very moment after receiving the sacred oil, he exhaled his last breath on this earth.

San Pio da Pietrelcina
Balconies crowded during Padre Pio's funeral procession.

His message

"Is there is a shortcut to Heaven?", Padre Pio was asked once. "Yes," he replied, "Our Lady... She is the sea through which the shores of eternal splendor are reached". He always urged his spiritual children to pray the Rosary and to imitate Our Lady in her everyday virtues such as humility, patience, silence, purity, charity. "I wish I had a voice so strong - he said - to invite the sinners of the world to love Our Lady."

He himself always had a rosary in his hand, recited it incessantly in full, especially at night. "This prayer - Padre Pio said - is our faith, the support of our hope, the explosion of our charity." His spiritual testament, at the end of his life, was: "Love Our Lady and make her loved. Always recite the Rosary."

His cell, number 5, had a sign hanging on the door with a famous phrase of St. Bernard: "Mary is the whole reason for my hope." To Her, in May 1956, he dedicated the "House for the Relief of Suffering", one of today's most qualified health care facilities in Italy and internationally, with 70,000 admissions a year, modern equipment and links with leading research institutes in the world.

Padre Pio has followers all over the world. Why such devotion to this Saint Francis of the South? Father Raniero Cantalamessa explains it thus: "If the whole world runs after Padre Pio - as one day they were running after Francis of Assisi - it is because people feel that neither technology with all its resources, nor science with all its promises will save us, but only holiness. Which is like saying love."

His gifts

Thousands of testimonials have been collected in the years on the extraordinary experiences of people who met or prayed or even did not know Padre Pio.
  • The stigmata, that he had for 50 years. Analyzed and studied and variously explained or not explained by doctors.
  • The "impossible" hyperthermias, unexplained, especially since these extraordinary fevers not only did not kill him, but did not leave any clinical consequence. On various occasions his body temperatures reached 43°C, 45°C, 48°C, once even 52° centigrade (109.4, 113, 118.4, 125.6 degree Fahrenheit)
  • The bilocation, though he never left San Giovanni Rotondo, his appearances on various continents are attested by numerous eye witnesses, even groups of people.
  • The odor of sanctity, well established in Padre Pio's case; the odor was especially strong from the blood of his wounds, followed him throughout his life, occurred when people prayed him and continue to this day.
  • Extraordinary discernment, through which he had the ability to read hearts and consciences.
  • Miraculous healings were attributed to him through the power of prayer, and some are also recognized by the Church.

San Pio da Pietrelcina

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Around his figure in recent years rivers of ink were written, countless articles and many books, approximately over 200 biographies in Italian. "I will make more noise once dead than alive," he had predicted with his usual wit.
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