Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione), St.
PADRE PIO (FRANCESCO FORGIONE), ST.
Capuchin-Franciscan priest, stigmatic; b. Pietrelcina, Italy, May 25, 1887; d. San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, Sept. 23, 1968.
From early childhood he exhibited a spiritual sensitivity bordering on mysticism. Later, he confided to his spiritual director that at the age of five he thought of consecrating himself to God forever, a desire that he felt materialized when he entered the Capuchin-Franciscan Order. In his formative years as a Capuchin, physical ill-health and encounters with the devil plagued the quiet, gentle, and reserved friar.
After his ordination to the priesthood in 1910, his life was relatively uneventful, except for a brief stint—six weeks—in the medical corps of the Italian Army during World War I. He received a medical discharge after mistakenly being considered a deserter.
In 1918, he was officially assigned to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo and in September of that year he was first gifted with the visible phenomenon of the stigmata. When the Vatican and the Capuchin Order intervened to ascertain the facts concerning the stigmata, Padre Pio had to face suspicion, embarrassment, and disciplinary action in addition to his crosses of ill-health and demonic affliction. Considerable controversy arose among doctors and the clergy over the natural and supernatural aspects of his stigmata.
The Vatican began its investigation by forbidding Padre Pio to say Mass publicly. This action by the Holy See combined with rumors that Padre Pio would be transferred from San Giovanni Rotondo stirred violent riots by the townspeople resulting in 14 deaths and 80 injuries. As a result, in 1920 Church authorities imposed restrictions that were to last 13 years on his public activities. Through it all Padre Pio remained obedient and compliant. Finally in 1933, Pius XI lifted the ban telling the friar's archbishop: "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed about Padre Pio."
For 50 years Padre Pio never left San Giovanni Rotondo; yet his influence was felt everywhere as the world flocked to him for spiritual favors. Aside from saying Mass, preaching, hearing confessions, and being a victim of Christ's suffering, he did nothing extraordinary except for the creation of one mighty monument: Padre Pio's hospital, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, which was the result of his zeal and inspiration. After his death in 1968, the impact of his life, sanctity, and spirituality remained a powerful influence on the faithful and on the Church.
On the occasion of the centenary of Padre Pio's birth (1987), Pope John Paul II visited the tomb of the Capuchin stigmatic and paid him this tribute: "… as a religious he generously lived out the ideal of the Capuchin friars, just as he lived out the ideal of the priest….Were not the altar and the confessional the two poles of his life? This priestly witness contains a message as valid as it is timely."
Padre Pio was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 2, 1999, and canonized on June 16, 2002. His legacy includes nearly 3,000 prayer groups comprised of about 500,000 members.
Feast: May 25.
Bibliography: padre pio da pietrelcina, Epistolario-Corrispondeza con le Figlie Spirituali (1915–1922) (San Giovanni Rotondo 1977); Epistolario-Corrispondenza con i Direttori Spirituali (1910–1922) (San Giovanni Rotondo 1971); Vita di Padre Pioattraverso le lettere, ed. a. motta (Milan 1995). p. treece, Meet Padre Pio (Ann Arbor, Mich. 2001). g. preziuso, The Life of Padre Pio, tr. and ed. j. aumann (New York 2000). f. contessa, Padre Pio: Venerable—December 18, 1997, Blessed—May 2, 1999, Saint (New York 1999). franciscan friars of the immaculate, Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker (New Bedford, Mass.1999). e. malatesta, La vera storia di Padre Pio: l'unica biografia completa con i documenti segreti esclusi nel processo di beatificazione (Casale Monferrato 1999); I miracoli che hanno fatto santo Padre Pio, with a. amati (Casale Monferrato 1998). s. m. manelli, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (New Bedford, Mass. 1999). a. pronzato, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina: mistero glorioso (Milan 1999). r. allegri, Padre Pio: un santo tra noi (Milan 1998); Il catechismo di Padre Pio (Milan 1996); A tu per tu con Padre Pio (Milan 1995), Eng. tr. Padre Pio: A Man of Hope (Ann Arbor, Mich. 2000); I miracoli di padre Pio (Milan 1993). g. scarale, Padre Pio nel cuore (Milan 1998). d. m. gaudiose, Mary's House: Mary Pyle, Under the Spiritual Guidance of Padre Pio (New York 1993); Prophet of the People (New York 1974). j. a. schug, A Padre Pio Profile (Petersham, Mass. 1987); Padre Pio (Huntington, Ind.1976). c. ruffin, Padre Pio: The True Story (Huntington, Ind.1982). j. mccaffery, The Friar of San Giovanni (London 1978; Garden City, N.Y. 1981); Tales of Padre Pio (Kansas City 1979). g. pagnossin, Il Calvario di Padre Pio, 2 v. (Padova 1978). g. festa, Misteri di Scienza e Luci di Fede, le Stigmate Padre Pio da Pietrelcina (Rome 1938).
[s. f. miklas]