Saint Pio Foundation mounts tour celebrating 20th anniversary of stigmatist's canonization.
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Occasionally, devotees of Padre Pio, the 20th century Capuchin friar who bore the wounds of Christ in his hands and feet for 50 years, have a chance to venerate one of the gloves he wore to cover those stigmata. Gloves of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as he is formally known, have been used in special intensive prayers for healing of people suffering from incurable cancer and other illnesses.
But there are other relics of the Italian saint, and five of them will be on display in Newark, New Jersey, in September.
The relics will be accompanied by a life-sized statue of St. Pio, the first priest in the Catholic Church’s history to bear the stigmata wounds of Christ’s crucifixion.
The display – at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart – is part of the Saint Pio Foundation’s ongoing “I Embrace You” Tour of the U.S.
The relics include crusts of St. Pio’s wounds, gauze stained with his blood, locks of his hair, a piece of his mantle, and a handkerchief drenched in his sweat, according to a press release from the Saint Pio Foundation.
In addition to venerating the relics, visitors will have chance to view a replica of “I Embrace You,” a sculpture created by world-renowned artist Timothy Schmalz that depicts blood pouring from the crucified Jesus into St. Pio’s stigmata. Photos taken by the saint’s personal photographer also will be available to view inside the Cathedral.
“We’re very excited to host this display,” said Fr. Bismarck Chau, rector of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “Many people do not have the means to travel to Italy, so this is a great opportunity to be in the presence of relics that belonged to someone who was a great example of service and devotion to Jesus. He helped so many people, and he was committed to prayer in a way that’s hard for even priests to manage. So, it’s amazing that people will get the chance to pray before his relics.”
The relics will be displayed on Monday, September 12, between noon and 6:30 p.m. and on Tuesday, September 13, between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, will celebrate a special Mass to honor St. Pio’s memory at 7 p.m. on September 13.
The Saint Pio Foundation’s “I Embrace You” Tour commemorates the 20th anniversary of St. Pio’s canonization by Pope St. John Paul II as well as the 135th anniversary of his birth. The tour, which concludes in September, has attracted thousands to displays in major cities like Washington, DC, and Louisville, Kentucky. Its stop at the cathedral marks the first time relics of St. Pio will be made available for veneration in the Archdiocese of Newark.
St. Pio, also known as “Padre Pio,” was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy. After being ordained a priest in 1910, he developed the stigmata for which he is known on September 20, 1918. But his legacy extends beyond his wounds, as the saint is revered for performing healings, exhibiting supernatural phenomena, and counseling countless Catholics on spiritual matters. The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for the Relief of Suffering) hospital he established in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, in 1956 still thrives today.
“St. Pio is someone we can all learn from, and I encourage everyone to pray to him,” said Fr. Chau. “I once had to make a very important decision that was causing me a lot of stress, so I asked St. Pio for his intercession. As I was saying this prayer, I felt a great sense of peace from the top of my head flowing down to my feet, and I felt like a completely different person. I’ve told a lot of people to pray to him, too, and they’ve said they received blessings after they did. I hope everyone in the archdiocese comes to pray before the relics so St. Pio can intercede in their lives.”