DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     May 3, 1999     vol. 10, no. 86

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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John Paul II Raises Padre Pio of Pietrelcina to Altar

          VATICAN CITY, MAY 2 (ZENIT).- Today Rome lived an historic moment. Confirming expectations, Padre Pio beatification became the occasion for the largest concentration of pilgrims in Roman religious history. This was the day of the "friar of the stigmata."

          Saint Peter's Square and the adjacent Via della Conciliazione were unable to contain the human river of faithful. Thus, the celebration which was presided by the Pope, was extended to another historic Roman Square, that of Saint John Lateran; and, of course, to San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio's convent is located. At these other two locations, the faithful were able to follow the events on giant screens.

    Sanctity in the Era of Communications

          At a time in history marked by secularism and the clash of war, and in the era of information and telecommunications, the Church sets forth this Capuchin friar as a model for Christians, who lived an old and always new sanctity.

          It was nearly 10 a.m. when John Paul II pronounced the beatification formula: "After having received the opinion of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, We -- the Pontiff read in Latin, the official language of the Church -- respond to the desire of our brother Vicenzo da Dario, Archbishop of Manfredonia, and of many other brothers in the episcopate and of many faithful, and with our apostolic authority allow that the Venerable Servant of God, Pio of Pietrelcina, henceforth be called Blessed, and that his feast be celebrated in those places and according to the rules established by law, on the day of his birth in Heaven, September 23." The thunderous applause of the more than 150,000 pilgrims from all the continents present in Saint Peter's Square greeted the words of Peter's successor. An applause that was echoed by more than 200,000 people in Saint John Lateran's Square.

          Mrs. Consiglia de Martino was present during the solemn rite; it was her inexplicable cure --a miracle through the intercession of Padre Pio --, that made his beatification possible.

    Papal Memories

          During his homily, the Pope shared memories of his own personal relation with Padre Pio and stated clearly from the beginning where the friar's spiritual legacy lies. "By his life given wholly to prayer and to listening to his brothers and sisters, this humble Capuchin friar astonished the world."

          When I was a student here in Rome, I myself had the chance to meet him personally, and I thank God for allowing me today to include Padre Pio's name in the book of the Blessed.

    The Trial: Lack of Understanding in the Church

          "What other purpose was there for the demanding ascetic practices which Padre Pio undertook from his early youth, if not to identify himself gradually with the Divine Master, so that he could be 'where he was?' "

          "Those who went to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend his Mass, to seek his counsel or to confess to him," the Pope continued, "saw in him a living image of Christ suffering and risen. The face of Padre Pio reflected the light of the Resurrection. His body, marked by the 'stigmata,' showed forth the intimate bond between death and resurrection which characterizes the Paschal Mystery."

          "Blessed Pio of Pietrelcina shared in the Passion with a special intensity: the unique gifts which were given to him, and the interior and mystical sufferings which accompanied them, allowed him constantly to participate in the Lord's agonies, never wavering in his sense that 'Calvary is the hill of the saints.' "

          Among other things, the Pope referred to the misunderstanding that the new Blessed suffered, especially, by some representatives of the Church. The Holy Father referred to them as a real storm. Harsh denunciations against the friar were made to the former Holy Office by people who did not understand his charisms. Franciscan Father Agostino Gemelli, the founder of the Sacred Heart University and one of the most important hospitals in Italy, in 1920 described him as an "hysteric" after examining his wounds. Bishop Pasquale Gagliardi of his own diocese accused him of being a "swindler."

          The Pontiff pointed out that it was precisely in this way that obedience became "a crucible of purification a path of gradual assimilation to Christ, a strengthening of true holiness. Padre Pio was rehabilitated in 1965 by Pope Paul VI.

    The Legacy

          The Holy Father referred to the two great works that Padre Pio has left humanity: the Prayer Groups and the House for the Relief of Suffering. "He wanted it to be a first class hospital, but above all he was concerned that the medicine practiced there would be truly 'human,' treating patients with warm concern and genuine attention."

          "He was quite aware that people who are ill and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also, and more importantly, a human and spiritual climate to help them rediscover themselves in an encounter with the love of God and with the kindness of their brothers and sisters."

          It was in this way that "he wished to show that God's 'ordinary miracles' take place in and through our charity. We need to be open to compassion and to the generous service of our brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science and technology at our disposal.

          At the end of the ceremony, John Paul II went by helicopter to Saint John Lateran. Looking down at the crowds below, the Holy Father said: "We are witnessing a great expression of faith which is moving and makes us feel in a very concrete way the reality of the Church, the family of God, which today is joyful because of the sanctity of one of her faithful and generous children."

          The hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who participated in this organized, enthusiastic event, proved that important celebrations, which will characterize the next Jubilee of the Year 2000, can become events of faith. ZE99050204

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.

May 3, 1999       volume 10, no. 86


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