The Secret Story of Padre Pio's Stigmata

Volume Reveals Report of Vatican Investigator

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By Mirko Testa

ROME, SEPT. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A volume detailing the report of a Vatican investigator into Padre Pio gives new information on the wounds of the Passion that the friar suffered.

Padre Pio da Pietrelcina received the stigmata from the crucified Christ, who in an apparition invited the Capuchin friar to unite himself to his passion so as to participate in the salvation of others, particularly consecrated persons: This is what we can know with certainty thanks to the recent opening -- at the request of Benedict XVI -- of the archives of the former Holy Office up to 1939, which contain information on revelations to Padre Pio that were not previously published.

These revelations have been released in a book titled "Padre Pio Sotto Inchiesta: l''Autobiografia Segreta'" ("Padre Pio Under Investigation: The 'Secret Autobiography'"). The volume is prefaced by Vittorio Messori and edited by Father Franceso Castelli, historian for the beatification cause of Pope John Paul II and professor of modern and contemporary history of the Church at the Romano Guardini Institute for Religious Sciences in Taranto, Italy.

Until the publication of this book, many assumed that Padre Pio -- whether for reasons of modesty or because he thought himself unworthy of the charisms he had received -- had never disclosed to anyone what happened on the day he received the stigmata.

The only known reference to these events was in a letter Padre Pio sent to his spiritual director, Father Benedetto da San Marco in Lamis, in which he speaks of the appearance of a "mysterious person" but does not offer any details.

The new book, which contains the first complete version of the report penned by Bishop Raffaele Rossi of Volterra, (later cardinal), apostolic visitor sent by the Holy See to secretly investigate Padre Pio, clarifies that on the occasion of the reception of the stigmata the saint had a conversation with the crucified Christ.

The book also contains a number of statements that Padre Pio made under oath, which provide an interpretive key to Bishop Rossi's report.

Asked to swear on the Gospel, Padre Pio for the first time revealed the identity of the one from whom he received the wounds.

It was June 15, 1921, and in answer to a question posed by Bishop Rossi, Padre Pio said: "On Sept. 20, 1918, I was in the choir of the church after celebrating Mass, making the thanksgiving when I was suddenly overtaken by powerful trembling and then there came calm and I saw Our Lord in his crucified form.

"He was lamenting the ingratitude of men, especially those consecrated to him and favored by him."

"Then," Padre Pio continued, "his suffering was apparent as was his desire to join souls to his Passion. He invited me to let his pains enter into me and to meditate on them and at the same time concern myself with the salvation of others. Following this, I felt full of compassion for the Lord's pains and I asked him what I could do.

"I heard this voice: 'I will unite you with my Passion.' And after this the vision disappeared, I came back to myself, my reason returned and I saw these signs here from which blood flowed. Before this I did not have these."

Padre Pio then said that the stigmata were not the result of a personal request of his own but came from an invitation of the Lord, who, lamenting the ingratitude of men, and consecrated persons in particular, conferred on Padre Pio a mission as the culmination of an interior mystical journey of preparation.

Common theme

Father Castelli, the book's editor, noted that the theme of the ingratitude of men and especially those favored by God is not something new in the Capuchin friar's private revelations.

He told ZENIT: "What is decisive is that Padre Pio made no request for the stigmata. This helps us to understand the freedom and the humility of the Capuchin who is clearly completely uninterested in making a show of the wounds.

"Padre Pio's humility also manifests itself in his reaction to seeing the signs of the Passion traced in his flesh once he had come back to himself. In fact, in the conversation with the bishop, once the mystical scene has finished, it is not elaborated on further."

From the conversation with Padre Pio, from the letters, from the witnesses questioned by Bishop Rossi and finally from his own report, it is plain that the friar was unhappy about the signs of the Passion, that he tried to hide them and that he was uneasy in showing them at the request of the apostolic visitor, the editor explained.

A 6th wound?

The book conveys Bishop Rossi's conclusions about the stigmata, of which there had only been partial information, and so provides new information, especially about the form of the wound in the side and a rumored sixth wound on the friar's back.

In his report the apostolic visitor says that there was no festering in Padre Pio's wounds, they did not close and did not heal. The remained inexplicably open and bloody, despite the fact that the friar had tried to stop the bleeding by treating them with iodine.

"Bishop Rossi's description of the wound in the side," Father Castelli told ZENIT, "is decisively different from those before and after him. He did not see it as an upside down or slanted cross, but as having a 'triangular form' and so therefore with definite edges."

Contrary to what certain doctors have said, Bishop Rossi concluded that the wounds did not appear to be externally inflicted.

"This speaks in favor of the authenticity of the stigmata," Father Castelli explained, "because carbolic acid -- which according to some was what Padre Pio might have used to cause the wounds -- after it has been applied, consumes the tissue and inflames the surrounding area. It is impossible to think that for 60 years Padre Pio could have caused himself these wounds of the same definite shape.

"Further, the wounds emitted the intense odor of violets rather than the fetid stench that degenerative processes, tissue necrosis or infections usually cause."

According to the report, Padre Pio said that apart from the stigmata in his hands, feet and side, there were no other wounds, and therefore no wound on his back as Jesus might have had from carrying the cross. Some have suggested that Padre Pio might have had this wound.

Father Castelli maintains that it is not possible to speculate beyond the information gathered in Bishop Rossi's 1921 investigation and attribute to Padre Pio any other sign of the Passion.