Blessing of the "I Absolve You" sculpture will precede the September 22 veneration of St. Pio’s relics at church.
St. Padre Pio, known for the painful stigmata he bore marking him as one of the few saints to suffer the wounds of Christ’s Passion, was also known for his charism as a great confessor.
His reputation for “reading hearts” and discerning whether the penitent had been truthful or whether he had left out a sin brought hundreds of people to him every day, eager to unburden themselves and repent.
Starting this Sunday, September 16, visitors to New York will be able to engage in a meditation to recreate that experience, with an “interactive” statue of St. Pio in his role as confessor.
Kicking off a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s death, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in lower Manhattan will display a statue bearing the title of “St. Padre Pio – I Absolve You,” sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz.
The sculpture, a gift to the church from the Saint Pio Foundation, features a confessional with two seats – one for St. Pio, and one for whoever cares to sit on the other side of the confessional screen from him. A glance at the screen reveals the face of Jesus – a visual reminder that the priest acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”) when he hears confessions.
““It’s a very moving and interactive statue,” Msgr. Donald Sakano, pastor of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, told Catholic New York. “It invites you to sit next to him.”
Schmalz is known for his bronze “Homeless Jesus” sculptures, installed all over the world, featuring a cloaked man, recognizable as Jesus by his wounds, lying on a park bench, challenging passersby to contemplate Jesus’ reminder in the Gospel of Matthew: “as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”
The blessing of the statue will take place on Sunday, September 16 at 1:45 p.m., and marks the start of a week of events commemorating St. Pio, including a September 22 exhibition of the saint’s relics, which are on tour of the United Sates. Relics available for veneration include: St. Pio’s glove, St. Pio’s crusts from his wounds, cotton-gauze with St. Pio’s blood stains, a lock of the his hair, St. Pio’s mantle and the hankerchief soaked with his sweat hours before his death. They will be available for veneration from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and with a special Mass to follow.
For more information on the tour of St. Pio’s relics visit the Saint Pio Foundation website.