St. Padre Pio's Body Exhumed

Will Be Displayed for Veneration in April

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SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, MARCH 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The body of St. Padre Pio of Pietreclina has been exhumed and will be ready for public veneration beginning in April, according to the Vatican delegate who oversees the shrine of the saint.



Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo announced Jan. 6 that the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes authorized the exhumation of the Capuchin friar's body to verify the condition of his mortal remains, and to ensure its future preservation.

The work to exhume the saint's corpse began Sunday night when his tomb was opened. Archbishop D’Ambrosio himself presided over the three-hour liturgy that ended after midnight. A large crowd spontaneously gathered to attend the liturgy.

Francesco Forgione, a native of Pietrelcina, Italy, was born in 1887. Later known as Padre Pio, the famed confessor and preacher was widely recognized to have had the stigmata -- the wounds of Christ's crucifixion -- on his hands and feet. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999 and canonized him in 2002.

“We have found the mortal remains of St. Pio in fairly good conditions, conditions that could have been worse," Archbishop D’Ambrosio told Vatican Radio. “The fact that the plaster around the grave where the casket was placed was only completed a day before the burial and had not yet dried probably had a negative affect on the preservation. This also created heavy humidity, which we also found in the casket.

“Nevertheless, in spite of all of this, we can say that the upper portion, we refer to the face, is partially skeletal, as well as the upper limbs. Though the rest is very visible, the hands are very clear. The technicians have said that a sort of auto-mummification process has begun in some parts of the body.”

In addition, Archbishop D’Ambrosio confirmed in a communiqué Monday that “the stigmata are not visible.”

Conservation

The body of the Capuchin friar will be conserved and put in a part-glass coffin in the crypt of the old Church of St. Mary of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo, where his remains had been kept for 40 years, and be available to the faithful for veneration for at least several months beginning April 24.

The exhumation and public display of the saint's body coincides with the 40th anniversary of his death, which occurred Sept. 23, 1968. The process also takes place 90 years after the friar received the stigmata; the Capuchins report that happened Sept. 20, 1918.

Archbishop D’Ambrosio explained to Vatican Radio that the exhumation of the body “is a well-established practice, dating back in the history of the Church more than 1,000 years […] for the bodies of saints and of those who are close to beatification and canonization.”

The reason for doing this, he said, is to “respond to certain historic responsibility to guarantee a prolonged preservation of saint’s bodies, using appropriate methods, in order to allow future generations to also have the chance to venerate and care for these relics.”

The archbishop affirmed that appropriate methods will be used to guarantee the preservation of St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s body in the best conditions, and that process, which involves a sort of "embalming" will take 30-40 days.

Moment of emotion

During the liturgy Sunday, Father Aldo Broccato, the provincial minister of the Capuchin Province of "Sant’Angelo e Padre Pio," explained that exhumation and canonical recognition express “first of all the deep human emotions that our province has always held for this illustrious son of ours, who loved the province so much and for which he offered and suffered so much.”

“This event shows even more clearly the sign of our faith in the communion of saints, in the resurrection of the body and in life everlasting,” he added.

“In fact," said Fr. Broccato, "as we now see his mortal remains, my dear faithful and brothers, even though they are precious and dear to our human hearts, they should move us to raise our eyes to heaven, to the light of the life of God, which in Christ shows itself in his death and resurrection.”

To make reservations to venerate the remains of St. Pio, the faithful can call +39 08 82 417 500. Additional information is also available on the Web site www.teleradiopadrepio.it.