Benedict XVI Visited San Giovanni Rotondo

Source: FSSPX News

During his 15th pastoral visit in Italy, on Sunday, June 21, the pope first went to the shrine of St. Mary of Graces, to pray in the crypt before the mortal remains of Padre Pio da Pietrelcina (1887-1968), which are exposed in a glass case to the veneration of the faithful.Next, the Holy Father celebrated Sunday Mass on the square before the church built in honor of the holy Capuchin in 2004.

 He gave his homily before a crowd of tens of thousands of pilgrims. Benedict XVI cited the example of Padre Pio, who pointed “the way that leads to holiness: prayer and charity”, and warned religious and the laity against the “dangers of activism and secularization” which “are ever present.” “Many of you, men and women religious and lay people, are so taken up by the thousands of tasks demanded of you by the service to pilgrims or to the sick in hospital that you run the risk of neglecting the one truly necessary thing: listening to Christ in order to do God's will,” the pope observed. “Thus my Visit is also intended to strengthen your fidelity to the mission you have inherited from your most beloved Father.” The Holy Father recalled that Padre Pio’s “priority concern, his priestly and paternal caring: so that people might return to God, might be able to experience his mercy and, inwardly renewed, rediscover the beauty and joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of putting the Gospel into practice. Padre Pio attracted people to the way of holiness with his own witness, pointing out by his example the "track" that leads to it: prayer and charity.”

After the Mass, during the prayer of the Angelus, the pope repeated the words which Padre Pio used to urge upon everyone: “Love Our Lady  and make her loved,” and he added that “even more effective than his words was the exemplary witness of his deep devotion to the heavenly Mother.” Benedict XVI entrusted the Year for Priests which he had solemnly opened on June 19 “to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Pio of Pietrelcina,” expressing the wish that this year be “a privileged opportunity to shed light on the value of the mission and of the holiness of priests at the service of the Church and of humanity in the third millennium.”

During the Vespers celebrated on June 19, feast of the Sacred Heart, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI had called to mind the person of the holy Curé of Ars, John Marie Vianney, whose 150th anniversary of his death is being celebrated this year, as a model to imitate, like Padre Pio.

Under the impulse given by the holy Capuchin, a House for the Relief of Suffering was founded in San Giovanni Rotondo, to accommodate the sick in 1956. In his address in the presence of the general director of the hospital and of Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio, apostolic administrator of San Giovanni Rotondo, Benedict XVI invited doctors, scientific researchers, health-care workers, volunteers and the Capuchins to “be reservoirs of love" and "the more abundant love is in oneself, the better communicated it will be to others," explained the pope, quoting the words of Padre Pio. Lastly, the pope

greeted the prayer groups very active in the hospital, as “front line of this citadel of charity.”

Evoking the mystery of suffering and illness, “which is manifested in so many forms and strikes in different ways,” the pope recalled that “suffering is part of the very mystery of the human person.” And he added that “to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because... none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, which is a constant source of suffering.  God alone can eliminate the power of evil.” Yet, “faith helps us to penetrate the meaning of all that is human, hence also of suffering. Thus an intimate relationship exists between the Cross of Jesus, the symbol of supreme pain, and the price of our true freedom and our pain, which is transformed and sublimated when it is lived in the awareness of God's closeness and solidarity. Padre Pio sensed this profound truth and, on the first anniversary of the inauguration of this Institution, he said that in it ‘the suffering person must experience God's love through the wise acceptance of his sufferings in serene meditation on his own destiny’.”

Later in the afternoon, the pope met with priests, religious, and youth in the church at the shrine. Speaking of the Curé of Ars who “in a turbulent and difficult epoch, St. John Mary Vianney sought in every possible way to enable his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of sacramental repentances.” Benedict XVI reminded his audience that Padre Pio “was consumed until the end of his life by his longing to care for souls and to convert sinners.” More pointedly,  the pope called upon priests “never [to] resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted, or limit themselves to noting loss of interest in the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.” The pope underlined the fact that there was among the clergy “a certain discouragement at the weakening or even abandonment of faith which is recorded in our secularized societies. It is certainly necessary to find new channels for communicating the Gospel truths to the men and women of our time, but if the essential content of the Christian proclamation is always to remain the same, we must turn to its original source, to Jesus Christ,” as Padre Pio did. (Sources: apic/imedia/VIS)

Padre Pio da Pietrelcina (1887-1968)

Francesco Forgione was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Having joined the convent of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins in Morcone (Piedmont) at the age of 15, in 1903, during his novitiate he received the name of Fra Pio, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1910. From 1911 onward, Padre Pio mentioned to his confessor that, for a year red spots and acute pains in his hands and feet have been appearing. In 1916, he was sent to the Convent of San Giovanni Rotondo, and a few months later he served in the medical corps of the Italian army during part of the First World War. In August 1918, he was transverberated (a spiritual piercing of the heart accompanied by bleeding) and, a month later, the stigmatas (bleeding wounds of Christ in the hands, feet and side) appeared. He tried to hide them by wearing mittens on his hands.

The Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) took an interest in his case in 1919, and sent a physician. In 1922, he was forbidden to engage in any written correspondence. From 1924 until 1928, three apostolic visitors came to conduct inquests on his case at the behest of Rome. Physicians and psychiatrists examined him, and declared him to be sane and sincere.

Yet, the increasing number of faithful attracted to him disturbed part of the Catholic hierarchy.  At the instigation of his own bishop, as well as of some Capuchin Fathers, any public ministry was forbidden to him by the Holy Office. From May 1931 until July 1933, Padre Pio lived isolated in his convent at San Giovanni Rotondo, and was  forbidden to administer the sacraments. He was only allowed to celebrate Mass  in the interior chapel of the convent, and later in his cell. In 1933, upon an order given by Pius XI (1922-1939), and after the publication of the Report on the Stigmata of Padre Pio by Dr. Festa, the Holy Office authorized the religious to celebrate Mass publicly and to hear confessions.

On January 9, 1940, Padre Pio made the first draft for a hospital named “Casa sollievo della sofferenza,” House for the Relief of Suffering. At the same time, in response to a request from Pius XII, (1939-1958), Padre Pio founded prayer groups to heal and bring relief to soul. The hospital, a property belonging to the Holy See, was officially inaugurated in 1956.

In 1957, the Holy Office authorized the edification of a new Church, St. Mary of Graces, in San Giovanni Rotondo to accommodate the faithful of Padre Pio. The great number of people was such that tickets were given out according to the time of arrival for the waiting line of penitents. Letters arrived by hundreds daily, some time up to 10,000 per day. From 1959 until 1964, Padre Pio was accused of skulduggery by his Capuchin brethren because of the huge sums of money he was receiving from all over the world for his hospital. Later, the Holy Office took upon itself to restrict his public appearance. Eventually, in January 1964, Paul VI (1963-1978) allowed the Capuchin Father to minister without any restrictions. Padre Pio died in the odor of sanctity on September 23, 1968, at the age of 81.