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Padre Pio - A Biography

Biography - Canonisation - Day in the life of - Middle Years - Death of Padre Pio - Wounds & Odours - Crypt - Spiritual Children

His Early life
Francesco Forgione was born on May 25, 1887 to Grazio Mario Forgione (1860 - 1946) and Maria Giuseppa de Nunzio Forgione (1859 - 1929) in Pietrelcina, a farming town in the Southern Italian region of Campania. His parents made a living as peasant farmers. He was baptized in the nearby Santa Anna Chapel, which stands upon the walls of an old castle. He later served as an altar boy in this same chapel. Restoration work on this chapel was later undertaken by the Padre Pio Foundation of America based in Cromwell, Connecticut. His siblings were an older brother, Michele, and three younger sisters, Felicita, Pellegrina, and Grazia (who was later to become a Bridgettine nun). His parents had two other children who died in infancy. When he was baptised, he was given the name Francesco, after one of the two children who died. He claimed that by the time he was five years old he had decided to dedicate his life to God. He is also said to have begun inflicting penances on himself and to have been chided on one occasion by his mother for using a stone as a pillow and for sleeping on the stone floor. He worked on the land till the age of 10, looking after the small flock of sheep the family owned and this delayed his education to some extent.
Pietrelcina was a highly religious town with the feast days of saints being celebrated throughout the year and religion had a profound influence on the Forgione family. The members of the family attended Daily Mass, prayed the Rosary nightly, and abstained from meat three days a week in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Although Francesco's parents and grandparents were illiterate; they memorised the Scriptures and narrated Bible stories to their children. It is claimed by his mother that Francesco was able to see and speak with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and his Guardian Angel, and that as a child, he assumed that all people could do so.
As a youth he claimed to have experienced heavenly visions and ecstasies. In 1897, after he had completed three years at the public school, Francesco was drawn to the life of a friar after listening to a young Capuchin friar who was seeking donations in the countryside at that time. When he expressed his desire to his parents, they made a trip to Morcone, a community 13 miles (21 km) north of Pietrelcina, to find out if their son was eligible to enter the Capuchin Order. The monks there were interested in accepting Francesco into their community, but he needed more educational qualifications.
Francesco's father went to the United States in search of work to pay for private tutoring for his Francesco so that he might meet the academic requirements to enter the Capuchin Order. Francesco took his Confirmation on September 27, 1899. He received private tutoring and obtained the academic requirements asked of him. On January 6, 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at Morcone and on January 22 he took the Franciscan habit and the name of Fra (Brother) Pio in honor of Pope St Pius V, the patron saint of Pietrelcina. He took the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

His Priesthood
Hhe travelled to the friary of St. Francis of Assisi by oxcart to commence the six year study for the priesthood and to grow in community life. Three years later on January 27, 1907 he made his solemn profession. In 1910, Brother Pio was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paolo Schinosi at the Cathedral of Benevento. Four days later, he offered his first Mass at the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels in his home village of Pietrelcina. His health was not good so he was permitted to remain with his family until early 1916 while still retaining the Capuchin habit.
On September 4, 1916, Padre Pio was ordered to return to his community life and he was moved to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary in the agricultural community of San Giovanni Rotondo in the Gargano Mountains . Along with Padre Pio, the community had seven friars. He stayed at San Giovanni Rotondo till his death, except for a period of military service.
When World War I started, four friars from this community were selected for military service. At that time, Padre Pio was a teacher at the Seminary and a spiritual director. When one more friar was called into service, Padre Pio was put in charge of the community. Then, in the month of August 1917 Padre Pio was also called to military service. Although not in good health, he was assigned to the 4th Platoon of the 100th Company of the Italian Medical Corps. Although hospitalized by mid-October, he was not discharged until March 1918, whereupon he returned to San Giovanni Rotondo and was assigned to work at Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels) in Pietrelcina. Later, in response to his growing reputation as a worker of miracles, his superiors again assigned him to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo. In all, his military service lasted 182 days.
Padre Pio again became a Spiritual Director and considered those he guided his spiritual sons and daughters. He had five rules for spiritual growth i.e. weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience.
He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended meditation and self-examination twice daily, once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and again in the evening, as retrospection. His advice on the practical application of theology he often summed up in his now famous quote, "Pray, hope and don’t worry". He asked Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire, above all things, to do the will of God

His poor health
We know from the diary of father Agostino da San Marco in Lamis, his spiritual director, that the young Francesco Forgione was afflicted with a number of illnesses. At six he suffered from a grave gastroenteritis, which kept him bedridden for a long time. At ten he caught typhoid fever. At 17, after completing his novitiate year in the Capuchins, brother Pio was sent to a neighboring province to begin his formative study - but he suddenly fell ill, complaining of loss of appetite, insomnia, exhaustion, fainting spells, and terrible migraines. He vomited frequently and could digest only milk.
It was during this time of illness that inexplicable phenomena began to occur. According to one story, strange noises vould be heard coming from his room at night - sometimes screams or roars. During prayer, brother Pio aooeared to be in a stupor, as if he were absent. Such phenomena are frequently described in the hagiographies of saints and mystics.
One of Pio's fellow brothers claims to have seen him in ecstasy, levitating above the ground.
In June 1905, brother Pio's health was so weak that his superiors decided to send him to a mountain convent, in the hope that the change of air would do him good. His health got worse however, and doctors advised that he return to his home town. But even there, his health continued to deteriorate.
In addition to his childhood illnesses Padre Pio suffered from "asthmatic bronchitis" throughout his life. He also had a kidney stone which caused frequent abdominal pains. He also suffered from a chronic gastritis, which later turned into an ulcer. He suffered from inflammations of the eye, the nose, the ear and the throat, and eventually from rhinitis and chronic otitis.
In the summer of 1915, in spite of poor health, he was drafted into the army. But after 30 days he was sent home on leave due to bad health. He returned to military service, and was put on leave again, this time for six months at a convent in the mountain village of San Giovanni Rotondo, where the weather was relatively cool even in summer. After six months there he returned to military service, but was sent home again two months later. On his return he was declared fit for service, and sent to the Sales barracks in Naples, where he remained until March 1917 when he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. He was then sent home on permanent leave.
In 1925 Padre Pio was operated on for an inguinal hernia, and shortly after this a large cyst formed on his neck which had to be surgically removed. A malignant tumor on his ear required further surgery followed by radiological treatment.
In 1956 he came down with a serious case of "exsudative pleuritis" and was bedridden for four months.
In old age Padre Pio was tormented by arthritis

Spiritual suffering and diabolical attacks
Padre Pio believed that the love of God was inseparable from suffering and that suffering all things for the sake of God was the way for the soul to reach God. At times he felt that his soul was lost in a chaotic maze, plunged into total desolation, as if he were in the deepest pit of hell. During his period of spiritual suffering, his followers believe that Padre Pio was attacked by the Devil, both physically and spiritually. His followers also believe that the devil used diabolical tricks in order to increase Padre Pio's torments. These included apparitions as an "angel of light" and the alteration of, or destruction of, letters to and from his spiritual directors. Padre Augustine confirmed this when he said:
"The Devil appeared as young girls that danced naked, as a crucifix, as a young friend of the monks, as the Spiritual Father or as the Provincial Father; as Pope Pius X, a Guardian Angel, as St. Francis and as Our Lady".
In a letter to Padre Agostino dated February 13, 1913, Padre Pio writes:
"Now, twenty-two days have passed, since Jesus allowed the devils to vent their anger on me. My Father, my whole body is bruised from the beatings that I have received to the present time by our enemies. Several times, they have even torn off my shirt so that they could strike my exposed flesh".
Fr. Gabriele Amorth, senior exorcist of Vatican City stated in an interview that Padre Pio was able to distinguish between real apparitions of Jesus, Mary and the Saints and the illusions created by the Devil by carefully analysing the state of his mind and the feelings produced in him during the apparitions. In one of Padre Pio's Letters, he states that he remained patient in the midst of his trials because of his firm belief that Jesus, Mary, his Guardian Angel, St. Joseph and St. Francis were always with him and helped him always.

Transverberation and visible stigmata
Based on Padre Pio's correspondence, even early in his priesthood he experienced less obvious indications of the visible stigmata for which he would later become famous. In a 1911 letter, Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual advisor, Padre Benedetto from San Marco in Lamis, describing something he had been experiencing for a year:
Then last night something happened which I can neither explain nor understand. In the middle of the palms of my hands a red mark appeared, about the size of a penny, accompanied by acute pain in the middle of the red marks. The pain was more pronounced in the middle of the left hand, so much so that I can still feel it. Also under my feet I can feel some pain.
His close friend Padre Agostino wrote to him in 1915, asking specific questions such as when he first experienced visions, whether he had been granted the stigmata, and whether he felt the pains of the Passion of Christ, namely the crowning of thorns and the scourging. Padre Pio replied that he had been favoured with visions since his novitiate period (1903 to 1904). He wrote that although he had been granted the stigmata, he had been so terrified by the phenomenon he begged the Lord to withdraw them. He did not wish the pain to be removed, only the visible wounds, since, at the time he considered them to be an indescribable and almost unbearable humiliation. The visible wounds disappeared at that point, but reappeared in September 1918. He reported, however, that the pain remained and was more acute on specific days and under certain circumstances. He also said that he was indeed experiencing the pain of the crown of thorns and the scourging. He was not able to clearly indicate the frequency of this experience, but said that he had been suffering from them at least once weekly for some years.
These experiences are alleged to have caused his health to fail, for which reason he was permitted to stay at home. To maintain his religious life of a friar while away from the community, he said Mass daily and taught at school.
St. John of the Cross describes the phenomenon of transverberation as follows:
The soul being inflamed with the love of God which is interiorly attacked by a Seraph, who pierces it through with a fiery dart. This leaves the soul wounded, which causes it to suffer from the overflowing of divine love.
World War I was still going on, and in the month of July 1918, Pope Benedict XV who had termed the World War as "the suicide of Europe" appealed to all Christians urging them to pray for an end to the World War. On July 27 of the same year, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war. Days passed and between August 5 and August 7, Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced his side. As a result of this experience, Padre Pio had a physical wound in his side. This occurrence is considered as a "transverberation" or piercing of the heart indicating the union of love with God.
As an interesting side-note, a first-class relic of Padre Pio, which consists of a large framed square of linen bearing a bloodstain from "the wound of the transverberation of the heart" in Padre Pio's side is exposed for public veneration at the St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.
With his transverberation began another seven-week long period of spiritual unrest for Padre Pio. One of his Capuchin brothers said this of his state during that period:
During this time his entire appearance looked altered as if he had died. He was constantly weeping and sighing, saying that God had forsaken him.
In a letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, dated August 21, 1918 Padre Pio writes of his experiences during the transverberation:
While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.
On September 20, 1918, accounts state that the pains of the transverberation had ceased and Padre Pio was in "profound peace". On that day, as Padre Pio was engaged in prayer in the choir loft in the Church of Our Lady of Grace, the same Being who had appeared to him and given him the transverberation, and who is believed to be the Wounded Christ, appeared again and Padre Pio had another experience of religious ecstasy. When the ecstasy ended, Padre Pio had received the Visible Stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. This time, however, the stigmata was permanent and would stay on him for the next fifty years of his earthly life.
In a letter from St. Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto, his superior and spiritual advisor, Padre Benedetto from San Marco in Lamis dated October 22, 1918, Padre Pio describes his experience of receiving the Stigmata as follows:
On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. [...] I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation.
Though Padre Pio would have preferred to suffer in secret, by early 1919, news about the stigmatic friar began to spread in the secular world. Padre Pio’s wounds were examined by many people, including physicians. People who had started rebuilding their lives after World War I began to see in Padre Pio a symbol of hope. Those close to him attest that he began to manifest several spiritual gifts including the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy, miracles, extraordinary abstinence from both sleep and nourishment (One account states that Padre Agostino recorded one instance in which Padre Pio was able to subsist for at least 20 days at Verafeno on only the Eucharist without any other nourishment), the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, the gift of conversions, and the fragrance from his wounds.


Accusations made against Padre Pio
As Padre Pio's fame grew, his ministry began to take the center-stage at the friary. Many pilgrims flocked to see him and he spent around nineteen hours each day celebrating Mass, listening to confessions and corresponding, often sleeping not even two hours per day. His fame had the negative side effect that accusations against him made their way to the Holy Office in Rome (since 1983, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith), causing many restrictions to be placed on him. His accusers included high-ranking archbishops, bishops, theologians and physicians.
Nature of the charges
They brought several accusations against him, including insanity, immoral attitude towards women - claims that he had intercourse with women in the confessional; misuse of funds, and deception - claims that the stigmata were induced with acid in order to gain fame, and that the reported odor of sanctity around him being the result of self-administered eau-de-cologne.
The founder of Rome's Catholic university hospital concluded Padre Pio was "an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people's credulity." In short, he was accused of infractions against all three of his monastic vows: poverty, chastity and obedience.
In 1923, he was forbidden to teach teenage boys in the school attached to the monastery because he was considered "a noxious Socrates, capable of perverting the fragile lives and souls of boys."
Home to Relieve Suffering
In 1940, Padre Pio began plans to open a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, to be named the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza or "Home to Relieve Suffering". Emanuele Brunatto, a spiritual child of Padre Pio, donated 3.5m (old) french francs. Barbara Ward, a British humanitarian and journalist on assignment in Italy, played a major role in obtaining a grant of $325,000 from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) for the project. The hospital finally opened in 1956. In order that Padre Pio might directly supervise this project, Pope Pius XII, in 1957 granted him dispensation from his vow of poverty. Padre Pio's detractors used this project as another weapon to attack him, charging him with misappropriation of funds.
Padre Pio was subject to numerous investigations. Fearing local riots, a plan to transfer Padre Pio to another friary was dropped and a second plan was aborted when a riot almost happened. In the period from 1924 to 1931 the Holy See made various statements denying that the happenings in the life of Padre Pio were due to any divine cause. At one point, he was prevented from publicly performing his priestly duties, such as hearing confessions and saying Mass.
Papal views on the situation in the 1930s to 1960s
By 1933, the tide began to turn, with Pope Pius XI ordering the Holy See to reverse its ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass. The Pope said, "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed." In 1934, he was again allowed to hear confessions. He was also given honorary permission to preach despite never having taken the exam for the preaching licence. Pope Pius XII, who assumed the papacy in 1939, encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio. According to a recent book, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) apparently did not espouse the outlook of his predecessors, and wrote in 1960 of Padre Pio’s “immense deception.” However, it was John XXIII's successor, Pope Paul VI, who, in the mid 1960s, firmly dismissed all accusations against Padre Pio.

Padre Pio’s cell in Our Lady of Grace Friary, San Giovanni Rotondo.
The deterioration of Padre Pio's health started during the 1960s in spite of which he continued his spiritual works. Due to Padre Pio's advanced age and deteriorating health, Pope Paul VI granted Padre Pio special permission to continue saying the Traditional Latin Mass following the institution of certain liturgical changes following the Second Vatican Council. On September 21, 1968, the day after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the Stigmata, Padre Pio experienced great tiredness. The next day, on September 22, 1968 Padre Pio was supposed to offer a Solemn Mass, but feeling weak and fearing that he might be too ill to complete the Mass, he asked his superior if he might say a Low Mass instead, just as he had done daily for years. Due to the large number of pilgrims present for the Mass, Padre Pio's superior decided the Solemn Mass must proceed, and so Padre Pio, in the spirit of obedience to his superior, went on to celebrate the Solemn Mass. While celebrating the Solemn Mass, Padre Pio appeared extremely weak and in a fragile state. His voice was weak when he said the Mass, and after the Mass had concluded, he was so weakened that he almost collapsed as he was descending the altar steps and needed help from a great many of his Capuchin confreres. This would be Padre Pio's last celebration of the Mass.
Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio made his last confession and renewed his Franciscan vows. As was customary, he had his Rosary in his hands, though he did not have the strength to say the Hail Marys aloud. Till the end, he repeated the words "Gesú, Maria" (Jesus, Mary). At around 2:30am, he said, "I see two mothers" (taken to mean his mother and Mary). At 2:30am he breathed his last in his cell in
San Giovanni Rotondo with his last breath whispering, "Maria!"
His body was buried on September 26 in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. His funeral was attended by over 100,000 people. He was often heard to say, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death". The accounts of those who stayed with Padre Pio till the end state that the stigmata had completely disappeared without even leaving a scar. Only a red mark "as if drawn by a red pencil" remained on his side which then disappeared.
Posthumous controversies
Town commercialization
The commercialization of the monastery town, San Giovanni Rotondo, has been criticized: "Alessandro Maggiolini, Bishop of Como and an eminent theologian, spoke out [the day before St. Pio's canonization] against the vast industry that has grown up around him. "Jesus Christ chased out the merchants from the temple, but I see now that they have returned," he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica".

Alleged supernatural phenomena

Padre Pio during the celebration of Mass. His Mass would often last hours, as the mystic received visions and experienced sufferings. Note the coverings worn on his hands to cover his stigmata.
Padre Pio acquired fame as a miracle worker, and, like John Vianney, was purported to have the gift of reading souls. He is alleged to have been able to bilocate according to eyewitness accounts.
In 1947, Father Karol Józef Wojtyla, a young Polish priest who would later go on to become Pope John Paul II, visited Padre Pio who heard his confession. Although not mentioned in George Weigel's biography Witness to Hope, which contains an account of the same visit, Austrian Cardinal Alfons Stickler reported that Wojty?a confided to him that during this meeting Padre Pio told him he would one day ascend to "the highest post in the Church." Cardinal Sticker further went on to say that Wojty?a believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a Cardinal, not Pope, as has been reported in works of piety.
Bishop Wojtya wrote to Padre Pio in 1962 to ask him to pray for Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a friend in Poland who was thought to be suffering from cancer. Later, Dr. Poltawska's cancer was found to have regressed; medical professionals were unable to offer an explanation for the phenomenon.
Because of the unusual abilities Padre Pio possessed, the Holy See twice instituted investigations of the stories surrounding him. However, the Church has since formally approved his veneration with his canonization by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
In the 1999 book, Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker, a segment by Irish priest Malachy Gerard Carroll describes the story of Gemma de Giorgi, a Sicilian girl whose alleged blindness some believe was corrected during a visit to the Capuchin priest. Gemma, who was brought to
San Giovanni Rotondo in 1947 by her grandmother, was born without pupils. During her trip to see Padre Pio, the little girl reportedly began to see objects including a steamboat and the sea. Gemma's grandmother did not believe the child had been healed. After Gemma forgot to ask Padre Pio for Grace during her Confession, her grandmother reportedly implored the priest to ask God to restore her sight. Padre Pio, according to Carroll, told her, "The child must not weep and neither must you for the child sees and you know she sees." The section goes on to say that oculists were unable to determine how she gained vision. Padre Pio is alleged to have waged physical combat with Satan, similar to incidents described concerning St. John Vianney, from which he is said to have sustained extensive bruising. He is also said to have possessed the ability to communicate with guardian angels, often granting favors and healings prior to any written or verbal request.

On September 20, 1918, while hearing confessions, Padre Pio is said to have had his first occurrence of stigmata—bodily marks, pain, and bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. This phenomenon allegedly continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. The blood flowing from the stigmata is said to have smelled of perfume or flowers, a phenomenon mentioned in stories of the lives of several saints and often referred to as the odour of sanctity.
His stigmata, regarded by some as evidence of holiness, was studied by physicians whose independence from the Church is not known. The observations were reportedly unexplainable and the wounds never infected. It was reputed, however, that his condition caused him great embarrassment, and most photographs show him with red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleedings occurred.
At Padre Pio's death in 1968, his body appeared unwounded, with no sign of scarring. There was even a report that doctors who examined his body found it empty of all blood. Photos taken of his bare feet and hands during his funeral procession created some scandal with allegations of stigmata fraud, although believers saw the disappearance of the marks as yet another miracle.

Accusations of fraud
Historian Sergio Luzzatto and others, both religious and non-religious, have accused Padre Pio of faking his stigmata. Luzzatto's theory, namely that Padre Pio used carbolic acid to self-inflict the wounds, is based on a document found in the Vatican's archive — the testimony of a pharmacist at the
San Giovanni Rotondo, Maria De Vito, from whom he ordered 4 grams of the acid. According to De Vito, Padre Pio asked her to keep the order secret, saying it was to sterilise needles. The document was examined but dismissed by the Catholic Church during Padre Pio's beatification process.
One commentator expressed the belief that the Church likely dismissed the claims based on alleged evidence that the acid was in fact used for sterilization: "The boys had needed injections to fight the Spanish Flu which was raging at that time. Due to a shortage of doctors, Padres Paolino and Pio administered the shots, using carbolic acid as a sterilizing agent.”
In 1982, the Holy See authorized the archbishop of Manfredonia to open an investigation to discover whether Padre Pio should be considered a saint. The investigation went on for seven years, and in 1990 Padre Pio was declared a Servant of God, the first step in the progression to canonization.
Beginning in 1990, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints debated how heroically Padre Pio had lived his life, and in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared him venerable. A discussion of the effects of his life on others followed, including the cure of an Italian woman, Consiglia de Martino, which had been associated with Padre Pio's intercession. In 1999, on the advice of the Congregation, John Paul II declared Padre Pio blessed.
After further consideration of Padre Pio's virtues and ability to do good even after his death, including discussion of another healing attributed to his intercession, the Pope declared Padre Pio a saint on June 16, 2002. Three hundred thousand people were estimated to have attended the canonization ceremony.

Later recognition
On July 1, 2004, Pope John Paul II dedicated the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church in San Giovanni Rotondo to the memory of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. A statue of Saint Pio in Messina, Sicily attracted attention in 2002 when it allegedly wept tears of blood. Padre Pio has become one of the world's most popular saints. There are more than 3,000 "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" worldwide, with 3 million members. There are parishes dedicated to Padre Pio in Vineland, New Jersey and Sydney, Australia. A 2006 survey by the magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics pray for intercession to Padre Pio than to any other figure. This prayer, more properly understood as a request, is not to be confused with worship which the Catholic Church teaches is due only to God himself.

On March 3, 2008 the body of Saint Pio was exhumed from his crypt, 40 years after his death, so that his remains could be prepared for display. A church statement described the body as being in "fair condition". Archbishop Domenico D'Ambrosio, papal legate to the shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, stated "the top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved". Archbishop D’Ambrosio also confirmed in a communiqué that “the stigmata are not visible.” He further confirmed that formalin was injected into Padre Pio's body prior to burial to preserve it. He went on to say that St. Pio's hands "looked like they had just undergone a manicure". It was hoped that morticians would be able to restore the face so that it will be recognizable. However, due to its deterioration, his face was covered with a life-like silicone mask.
José Cardinal Saraiva Martins, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, celebrated Mass for 15,000 devotees on April 24 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, San Giovanni Rotondo, before the body went on display in a crystal, marble, and silver sepulcher in the crypt of the monastery. Padre Pio is wearing his brown Capuchin habit with a white silk stole embroidered with crystals and gold thread. His hands hold a large wooden cross. 800,000 pilgrims worldwide have made reservations to view the body up to December 2008, but only 7,200 people a day can file past the coffin.
The display was originally to have ended on Padre Pio's feast day in September but was extended to December and has been extended again through to September 2009.
Adapted from a Wikipedia article - please let me know of any inaccuracies

Important dates in Padre Pio's life - Mary Pyle, a spiritual child of Padre Pio - Emanuele Brunatto, a spiritual child of Padre Pio

Floral banner

Padre Pio was particularly fond of flowers
"God Bless You" message with Bible and floral background