VATICAN CITY — The incorrupt body of Padre Pio has arrived in Rome for the first time ever, alongside that of another friar, St. Leopold Mandic, as a special initiative for the Jubilee of Mercy.
Urns containing the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic arrived at the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Wall on Feb. 3.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, colloquially known as “Padre Pio,” was a priest of the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchin, a stigmatist and a mystic, who lived from 1887-1968. He was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002 by St. John Paul II. He was born in Pietrelcina, but ministered in San Giovanni Rotondo from 1916 until his death.
His brother friar, St. Leopold Mandic, also a Capuchin, was born in 1866 in Croatia, but spent the majority of his life in the northern Italian city of Padua, where his relics have remained. For nearly 30 years, he would spend 10-15 hours a day in the confessional and was known for being generous with forgiveness and mercy. He died in 1942 and was canonized by St. John Paul II Dec. 16, 1983.
The relics will remain for a week of vigils, Masses and stops at several Roman churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica, before returning to their usual place of repose.
Both members of the Order of Friars Minor founded by St. Francis of Assisi, more commonly known as “Franciscans,” the saints lived during the same time period and were both canonized by St. John Paul II.
The relics of the saints — consisting of their incorrupt bodies, meaning they haven’t decomposed — were welcomed to St. Lawrence with a large celebration and procession into the basilica.
After a day of being open to the public for veneration, the relics were to be transferred to the Roman Church of San Salvatore in Lauro on Feb. 4 for an all-night prayer vigil, beginning at 10 pm, until 2pm the next day.
On Feb. 5, Archbishop Michele Castoro, who oversees the Diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio’s body usually resides, will celebrate the an afternoon Mass at San Salvatore.
After the Mass, the urns containing the relics of the two saints will then be taken in a walking procession to St. Peter’s Basilica. The procession will journey the entire length of Via della Conciliazione, the large street leading up to St. Peter’s.
Once in St. Peter’s Square, the relics will be received in St. Peter’s Square by Cardinal Angelo Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, who will lead attendees in a moment of prayer before accompanying the urns inside the basilica.
Padre Pio’s body will be placed at the basilica’s Altar of the Confession until Feb. 11, where pilgrims can come to venerate the saint during the basilica’s usual operating hours, between 7am and 7pm.
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of having the relics in St. Peter’s is that they will be present for the Feb. 10 commissioning of the Jubilee of Mercy’s “missionaries of mercy,” who will concelebrate Ash Wednesday Mass with the Pope inside the basilica.
Numerous other events are also set to take place during the period the relics are in Rome, including a Feb. 6 papal audience with members of “Padre Pio prayer groups,” workers at the Home to Relieve Suffering, founded by St. Pio in 1956, and faithful from the Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo Archdiocese.
On Feb. 9, Pope Francis will preside over Mass with Capuchin brothers, Padre Pio’s own order, from around the world.
After Mass on Feb. 11 for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which will be presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, St. Pio’s relics will be taken for three days to Pietrelcina for the first time since he left as a young priest.
It is said that, while alive, Padre Pio, who never left San Giovanni Rotonto after being assigned there, was asked if he would ever return to his childhood hometown of Pietrelcina. In response, the saint said that he would return one day, but not until after his death.
At a Jan. 29 press briefing on the arrival of the relics, Archbishop Fisichella said that their presence in Rome “is of great significance, for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God.”
In a Jan. 29 interview with CNA, Archbishop Fisichella said the presence of the saints’ bodies is “an exceptional event,” particularly during an extraordinary jubilee.
“The desire of the Holy Father was to give all the priests in the world, but especially to the missionaries of mercy, a sign,” he said, adding, “Where can we find a better sign of sanctity, of holiness, of dedication, total dedication to confession (than) in Padre Pio and in Padre Leopoldo?”