DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     April 28, 1999     vol. 10, no. 83

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The city of Rome is bracing itself for the arrival of an expected 500,000 pilgrims, from five continents, who are coming to take part in the May 2 beatification ceremony for Padre Pio.

          Earlier this month, organizers of the event were estimating that the crowds could be as large as 1 million people. At that point, realizing that it would be impossible to accommodate that number of people in the city-- and certainly to allow them to participate in the ceremony in St. Peter's Square-- the organizers began discouraging new arrivals, and urging the many people who are devoted to Padre Pio to follow the ceremonies on television.

          Only 150,000 people will be able to enter St. Peter's Square for the beatification, and another 200,000 will view the ceremony on a large-screen television set up in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. After the beatification, Pope John Paul II will travel to St. John Lateran to lead the faithful there in praying the Regina Coeli.

          The beatification of Padre Pio-- the Capuchin friar and stigmatist whose reputation for holiness and for producing miracles earned him an enormous following all over the world-- is seen in Rome as a test of preparations for the Jubilee Year festivities. If the city can successfully absorb 500,000 pilgrims in a weekend, it will be deemed ready for the crowds that are expected to flock to Rome for the 40 different major religious ceremonies already scheduled for the year 2000.

          Born on Mary 25, 1887, Francisco Forgione entered the Capuchin order at the age of 16, taking the name Pio. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910, and in 1916 he was assigned to the monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo, where he lived the rest of his days. He earned a widespread reputation as a confessor and spiritual director, and began drawing thousands of pilgrims to the monastery. In 918 he received the stigmata-- the wounds of Christ being manifest on his hands and feet for the remaining 50 years of his life. As his reputation grew, and reports of miracles were attributed to his intercession, the crowds at San Giovanni Rotondo became almost unmanageable, and in 1931 he was asked to restrict his public ministry.

          In 1947 Padre Pio began work to build a house for the sick at San Giovanni Rotondo, and-- largely as a result of his efforts-- that institution is now one of Italy's major hospitals. Still more important, in the wake of World War II dozens of "Padre Pio prayer groups" began to spring up all around the world, eventually claiming hundreds of thousands of participants inspired by his teaching and example.

          Padre Pio died in September 1968, and the formal cause for his beatification was opened in 1983. With a flood of documentation testifying to his pious life, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints filled 104 volumes with the collected evidence, and in 1997 issued a decree affirming that he had lived a life of "heroic virtue." In December 1998 the Congregation officially approved the veracity of a miracle attributed to his intercession, and Pope John Paul soon set the date for his beatification on May 2.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 28, 1999       volume 10, no. 83


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