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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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August 18, 2008     582 Words

A Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Padre Pio

CINCINNATI—In 1917 Padre Pio began an assignment at the Capuchin Franciscan Friary and Church of Our Lady of Grace in southern Italy’s San Giovanni Rotondo. The following September, he received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ) on his hands, feet and side. As the story of this spread, busloads of people came to attend his Masses or to confess their sins to him. Reports of healings performed by Padre Pio began to circulate throughout the region and beyond, and continued to do so during his life—and after his death.

The story of Padre Pio is featured in the September issue of St. Anthony Messenger in an article entitled, “A Visit to Padre Pio’s Tomb,” by Senior Editor Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M. After August 20, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.

Father Jack Wintz, joined by 14 other pilgrims, visited the tomb of St. Padre Pio in December of 2007. What these pilgrims saw was vastly different from the days when the Capuchin friar was alive: A greatly enlarged façade and structure now houses both the “old church” that Padre Pio knew and a much larger “new church” built to accommodate the ever-growing number of visitors. Following his beatification (1999) and canonization (2002), a huge new Church of St. Pio now stands and can hold 7,000 people.

Nearby is a five-story hospital complex known as the House for the Relief of Suffering. It has 350 beds and was a dream of Padre Pio from early on. Work began in 1947 and the hospital was in operation by 1954. It continues to thrive as a highly respected medical facility.

But the central feature of Padre Pio’s shrine is his tomb. It is often surrounded by pilgrims, praying for personal favors or for the healing of loved ones. Not long after Father Jack Wintz’s visit, dramatic changes began to take place at the tomb. In early January, Archbishop Domenico D’Ambrosio, papal delegate for the Shrine of St. Padre Pio, announced that his body would be exhumed, studied and later displayed for public veneration. Padre Pio’s remains have been moved to a room in the adjacent Capuchin convent where he lived for many years.

On September 23, the Capuchins and the universal Church will celebrate the 40th anniversary of St. Padre Pio’s death. In addition, September 20 marks the 90th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata.

His popularity is still widespread: Millions visit the shrine each year and view the many items on exhibit. Pilgrims can contemplate the historic crucifix before which Padre Pio was praying when he received the stigmata. Another significant exhibit is the friary room or cell, now enclosed by glass, where Padre Pio lived, slept and prayed for many years.

Father Jack Wintz left the pilgrimage reflecting on what visitors are supposed to learn from the life of a saint whom the whole world knows as Padre Pio.

“Among the People of God, we all know there are different levels of sensitivity to God’s love and goodness,” Wintz says. “Padre Pio’s main focus was not different from that of any thoughtful Christian—a focus on the great love that God reveals to us through the passion and death of Jesus Christ.”

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Permission is granted to reprint this release.

The second article posted will be,
“Jennifer Chiaverini: Elm Creek Quilts Catholic Novelist,” by Assistant Managing Editor Mary Jo Dangel.

 


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