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At his jubilee’s end, why Padre Pio may be a perfect Francis-era saint

Padre Pio, now formally known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the great 20th century Capuchin mystic, stigmatic and healer. (Credit: Stock image.)

Today marks the close of a jubilee year dedicated to Padre Pio, now formally known as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the great 20th century Capuchin mystic, stigmatic and healer. The jubilee began last July 28, which marked the 100thanniversary of his arrival in San Giovanni Rotondo, the small town in the Italian province of Foggia where he would spend the rest of life, eventually founding not only a major hospital but a spiritual empire.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is heading to San Giovanni Rotondo for the occasion to preside over two events – a memorial Mass and the dedication of a new “Place of Memory,” intended to keep the saint’s legacy alive.

At one level, it’s easy to think that Padre Pio isn’t exactly the ideal saint to promote under Pope Francis.

To begin with, Francis isn’t St. Pope John Paul II, who had a mystical streak a mile wide, and who found the supernatural phenomena surrounding Padre Pio electrifying. Francis has more of a down-to-earth spirituality, and while he doubtless accepts the possibility of inexplicable gifts such as the stigmata (the spontaneous appearance of the five wounds of Christ in one’s own body) or bilocation, equally probably, they aren’t the first thing he thinks of when he contemplates sanctity.

Moreover, Francis is usually seen as a centrist-to-progressive on many matters, while Padre Pio was a staunch conservative both politically and theologically.

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