DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     May 4, 1999     vol. 10, no. 87

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II presided at the beatification of Padre Pio on Sunday, May 2, as an estimated 600,000 pilgrims crowded the Vatican for the ceremony.

          The beatification of the famed Capuchin monk and stigmatist, who died in 1968, drew an enormous throng which overflowed St. Peter's square onto the Via de la Conciliazione toward the Tiber River. Tens of thousands of pilgrims who could not find a place near St. Peter's gathered in the plaza outside the basilica of St. John Lateran, watching the ceremony on giant video screens and awaiting Pope John Paul, who visited the site after the beatification ceremonies.

          The "invasion" of Rome began later last week, as 5,000 cars, dozens of buses, and 20 special trains brought people into the city. A fleet of 250 vans shuttled pilgrims from remote parking areas to the Vatican, while a new shuttle ferry on the Tiber-- opened for the weekend, prior to its formal inauguration in June-- slightly eased the snarled vehicular traffic.

          In his homily at the beatification ceremonies, Pope John Paul said that the enormous crowd was a sign that "the reputation Padre Pio, that son of Italy and of Francis of Assisi, has spread across every continent." The Pontiff also recalled that he himself had met with Padre Pio, when he was a student in Rome. He said the life of the Capuchin monk was "a constant exercise of faith," and that his rigorous ascetical practices helped Padre Pio toward "progressive identification" with Jesus Christ. "The people who came to San Giovanni Rotondo to participate in his Mass, to ask for his counsel, or for confession, found in him a living image of the suffering and resurrected Christ," the Pope said. He said that the stigmata-- a rare mystical gift, "often accompanied by much misunderstanding"-- was a sign and proof of the monk's identification with Christ.

          During the ceremony-- which was attended by a number of Italian leaders, including President Oscar Scalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema-- the huge congregation broke into applause and waved banners after the Pope formally pronounced the beatification of Padre Pio. The excitement and enthusiasm of the participants, constrained by the solemnity of the ceremony, tested the readiness of Rome to receive the millions of pilgrims who are expected to arrive during the Jubilee Year. By Monday, May 3, most observers pronounced the test a success. City organizers observed that the traffic was mitigated by the fact that many native Romans had left the city for the weekend.

          After the ceremony, the Pope traveled across Rome by helicopter to join with the pilgrims at St. John Lateran, and lead them in praying the Regina Coeli. There he delivered another call for an end to the warfare in Kosovo, asking the faithful to pray "more intensely" for peace.

          Noticias Eclesiales reported in Church News that the Pope's words to the pilgrims gathered at Saint John Lateran Square clearly emphasized the importance that the Capuchin friar had in filial love to the Mother of Jesus during his entire life, pointing out that the teachings and example of Padre Pio "particularly urges us to love and venerate the Virgin Mary."

          "His devotion to the Virgin," the Holy Father stated, "shines in each manifestation of his life: his words and writings, his teachings, and the counsels he gave to his numerous spiritual children." The Pope recalled through touching words how the new Blessed was never tired of inculcating the faithful a devotion to Mary, devotion that was "tender, deep and rooted in the genuine tradition of the Church."

          "He always encouraged, in the confessional as well as in predication: Love the Virgin!" who also talked about the special devotion of Father Pio to the rosary. "At the end of his earthly life, in the moment when he manifested his last will, he thought of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as he had done during his whole life: 'Love the Virgin and make her loved. Always pray the Rosary.'" ZENIT International News Agency reported that the celebration that John Paul II enjoyed in the beatification of Padre Pio, the "friar of the stigmata," was shadowed by sorrow and concern for the war. When the ceremony ended, the Pope went to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran to meet the faithful who had come to Rome to participate in the celebration, but who found no room in Saint Peter's Square or the adjacent avenues. At Saint John Lateran he referred to the Kosovo war.

          "My thoughts return again to Yugoslavia, and my love embraces all those who are suffering and dying there."

          The Holy Father said: "I raise my voice again to implore, in the name of God, that this attack by man against man come to an end, that the instruments of destruction and death be stopped, that all channels of aid be activated to help those who are obliged to leave their land in the midst of unspeakable atrocities. That dialogue be renewed, with the intelligence and creativity that God has given man to resolve tensions and conflicts, to build a society based on the respect due to every human person."

    Worldwide Prayer Campaign

          The Pope asked all Christians to be responsible and to pray "intensely during this month of May to implore the Virgin for the gift of peace in the Balkans and in those places of the world -- too many -- where violence reigns, fomented by prejudices and by hatred toward those of different ethnic origins, religious convictions or political ideas."

          The Pontiff not only referred to the Kosovo war, but also to Africa, "the continent which is bloodied by the greatest number of wars." "The power struggles, ethnic conflicts and indifference towards others are literally suffocating it."

          The Holy Father requested "each diocese to promote prayer during this month of May, so that from the Church a common invocation to the Blessed Virgin will rise so that in the Balkans, on the African continent and in all places of the world builders of peace will emerge who, forgetting their particular interests will be ready to work for the common good." ZE99050206

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 4, 1999       volume 10, no. 87


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