St Padre Pio’s relics to be exhibited on tour around Italy

Pope Francis wants remains of the Italian saint be brought to Rome for a few days

Statue of Padre Pio  in Rome: saint’s relics will go on tour at the request of Pope Francis. Photograph: Pier Paolo Cito/AP Photo

Statue of Padre Pio in Rome: saint’s relics will go on tour at the request of Pope Francis. Photograph: Pier Paolo Cito/AP Photo

 

Padre Pio, the controversial Capuchin saint much followed by Irish Catholics, is about to go “on the road”. The relics of St Padre Pio will travel up and down the Italian peninsula when an urn containing his earthly remains is brought first to Rome, then to his birth town of Pietrelcina in Campania and finally back to the Puglia town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where the mystic friar lived for all of his adult life.

St Padre Pio takes to the road at the request of one of his many special devotees, Pope Francis. The pope has asked that the remains of the southern Italian saint be brought to Rome for a few days, so that Holy Year pilgrims might venerate him.

‘Simple Capuchin friar’

The St Padre Pio event was officially presented on Friday in the Vatican by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. Calling him “a simple Capuchin friar”, Archbishop Fisichella acknowledged that “during his life, some in Rome caused him to suffer, but his holiness always prevailed”.

That observation relates to the fact that Padre Pio prompted much controversy because of the famous “stigmata” – the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion – which formed on his hands, feet and side. Many, including senior figures in the Holy See, doubted their authenticity but, after lengthy inquiries, he was finally canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

In accordance with the wishes of Pope Francis, urns containing the relics of both St Padre Pio and of another Capuchin saint, the Croat Leopold Mandic, will be exposed in the Basilica of St Peter’s and other Roman churches for the first week of next month.

Assessing the impact of the Holy Year so far, Archbishop Fisichella said that since the official opening on December 7th, some 1.4 million people, 40 per cent from outside Italy, had participated in jubilee events. The archbishop’s upbeat assessment contrasts with that of Roman hoteliers who claim that, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks in November, the sector has been hit by a wave of cancellations.

At the beginning of this month, ADA, the hotel managers association for Lazio, claimed that Christmas and New Year had seen a 10 per cent drop in tourist numbers. Significantly, 60 per cent of the 1.4 million pilgrims mentioned by Archbishop Fisichella come from Italy itself.