Thousands of people have waited hours outside a Rome church to glimpse the mortal remains of St Padre Pio and St Leopold Mandic, two Capuchins popular as miracle workers and known particularly for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions.
- Catholic News Seervice
Pope Francis asked the Capuchins to bring their relics to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the February 10 celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official "missionaries of mercy."
The hearse carrying Padre Pio's crystal coffin was about 90 minutes late getting to Rome's Basilica of St Lawrence on Wednesday because pockets and clusters of faithful repeatedly forced it to slow down as it drove from San Giovanni Rotondo, 400 kilometres to the southeast.
Posters pasted up all over the centre of Rome giving the detailed schedule for Masses, prayer services and other devotions feature a large photo of Padre Pio and a smaller photo of St Leopold.
While St Leopold is well known in Croatia and around Padua, his fame pales in comparison to that of Padre Pio, who was born in 1887 and died in 1968.
From 1918 to the very end of his life, Padre Pio bore the stigmata, wounds similar to those inflicted on Christ when he was crucified.
"For 50 years, he bore the marks of Christ," Father Fernandes said, yet the marks disappeared as soon as he died. There were accusations that they were self-inflicted, but the Capuchin said doctors examined them when he was operated on for appendicitis and said they did not believe they were self-inflicted.
"People realised that this was not just an ordinary guy; he had special gifts," Father Fernandes said. His primary gift was the ability "to read hearts, he could tell you what you were going through before you told him." He also was said to bilocate.
Photo: The exhumed body of St Padre Pio is carried into a Catholic church in Rome on Wednesday (Reuters)