Partially reconstructed with a life-like silicone mask and preserved in a temperature-controlled shrine, the mystic monk Padre Pio has officially begun his journey to St Peter’s Basilica.
Although he died in 1968, the popular Capuchin monk was declared a saint in 2002 and exhumed from his grave in 2008 to go on display in his hometown of San Giovanni.
The monk spent most of his life in the small, southeastern Italian town where yesterday his body was moved to San Lorenzo Basilica in Rome. Tomorrow, he will be taken to the Vatican
The body, along with that of another, less famous saint that is being transported to Rome from northern Italy, are being displayed in San Lorenzo Basilica before both are moved in procession to St. Peter’s tomorrow. They will return to their regular locations later this month.
Pio of Pietrelcina, known as Padre Pio, was born in 1887 to deeply religious farmers in the small agricultural town of Pietrelcina, in Campania, Italy.
By the age of five he knew he wanted to dedicate his life to serving God and claimed to have inner battles with demons and moments of religious out of body experiences.
As an adult, he achieved fame for what he considered a spiritual closeness with God and his stigmata – a religious phenomenon that sees sufferers struck with pains mimicking those suffered by Jesus when he was crucified.
His condition was reported to have been visible, though the wounds never became infected and healed once but then reappeared.
After news of his stigmata spread and pilgrims flocked to witness the phenomenon, he was credited with miracles and was said to be able to perform superhuman feats such as levitation.
Many denied the wounds were authentic and he was accused of having purchased carbolic acid from a pharmacist, though the Church always denied the allegations.
However, some members of the institution remained skeptical and he was disciplined several times and investigated repeatedly throughout the first half of the century.
In later years, he specialised in taking confessions, which many adherents claiming he was able to accurately predict what they were confessing before they had done so.
Since his death and burial in 1968 at his church in San Giovanni Rotondo, his popularity has grown and he is considered one of the Church’s most popular saints.
Canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, the shrine – which has now been temporarily moved to Rome – attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.