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ROME — With the relics of St. Padre Pio due to arrive at the Vatican next month for the Year of Mercy, new details have been released regarding their scheduled visit.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, O.F.M. Cap. (May 25, 1887–September 23, 1968), known as Padre Pio, was a Capuchin friar, priest, stigmatist and mystic. Born Francesco Forgione, he was given the name of Pius (in Italian: Pio) when he entered religious life.
Padre Pio is famous for bearing the stigmata (i.e., the wounds of Christ). He was beatified (1999) and canonized (2002) by Pope St. John Paul II.
According to Italian media reports, on the morning of February 3, the reliquary containing the remains of St. Pio will depart from San Giovanni Rotondo, arriving at the Roman Basilica of San Lorenzo at Verano. His relics will remain at San Lorenzo for the whole of February 4, under the care of the Capuchins.
On February 5, his relics will be carried in procession to St. Peter’s Basilica.
On February 6, at 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will grant a special audience to members of “Padre Pio Prayer Groups” from around the world; employees of the Home for the Relief of the Suffering (the private hospital Padre Pio founded, and which he called “the apple of my eye”) and faithful of the Archdiocese of Mafredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo.
On February 9, the pope will preside at Holy Mass in St. Peter’s, with Capuchin friars from around the world.
The presence of Padre Pio’s remains in the Vatican Basilica will also coincide with the Church’s entrance into the liturgical season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 10, when Pope Francis will send Missionary of Mercy priests throughout the world.
“The Holy Father,” wrote Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, in a letter sent to the local ordinary of San Giovanni Rotondo, “has expressed his keen desire that the remains of St. Pio of Pietrelcina be exposed in St. Peter’s Basilica on February 10, Ash Wednesday of the Extraordinary Holy Year, the day when he will send the Missionaries of Mercy throughout the world, conferring on them the special mandate of preaching and hearing confessions, as a living sign of how the Father welcomes all those who seek his forgiveness.”
Padre Pio was known as a confessor who could read men’s hearts and know their sins.
“The presence of St. Pio’s remains,” Fisichella continued,” will be a precious sign for all missionaries and priests, who will find strength for their own mission in the wondrous example of this untiring, welcoming and patient confessor, an authentic witness of the Father’s mercy.”
On the morning of February 11, after the celebration of Holy Mass by Archbishop Fisichella for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the relics of St. Pio will depart Rome, headed for a three-day stop in his native town of Pietrelcina.
But the town of Pietrelcina is not only the place where Padre Pio was born. According to his biographers, it was there that he first received the stigmata, only a year after his ordination.
With the official dates now set, the calendar of Italy’s most beloved saint is filling up. In fact, 2016 promises to be a rather “busy” year for Padre Pio, as three major events are scheduled for the months of February, May and July 2016.
After the exposition of his relics in St. Peter’s for February, the saint’s remains will then be exposed for the 60th anniversary of the founding (May 5, 1956) of the Home for the Relief of the Suffering.
The events will conclude with the centenary marking the humble friar’s arrival in San Giovanni Rotondo on July 28, 1916. Preparations for the celebrations are now underway.
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.