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Big crowds at Vatican for Padre Pio canonisation

Pope John Paul formally declared 20th century Italian mystic monk and miracle worker Padre Pio a saint on Sunday at a solemn ceremony attended by hundreds of thousands in a sweltering St Peter's Square and watched on screen by millions in Italy and around the world.

The crowd, jamming St. Peter's Square and nearby streets, was one of the biggest ever in this 23-year-old papacy. City authorities said some 500 pilgrims, some of whom fainted or suffered sunstroke, needed medical attention. Civil defence officials said the temperature reached 36 degrees in the square, and humidity hovered around 80%.

Pio died in 1968 after living for decades with inexplicable, bleeding wounds on hands and feet, like the wounds Jesus suffered at crucifixion.

The Holy Father struggled with the heat. As a sign of his frail health, he didn't distribute Communion to any of the faithful, who included a boy whose recovery in 2000 from a meningitis-induced coma in a hospital Pio founded in a southern Italian town was declared a miracle by the Vatican.

During his homily, John Paul recalled, how, in 1947, as a young priest he journeyed from Poland to be confessed by Padre Pio, who would hear confessions for hours.

"I, too, had the privilege in my younger days, of taking advantage of his availability in penance," the pope said.

For decades, many in the Vatican were made uneasy by his huge popularity and had scorned Padre Pio, doubting his inexplicable wounds were real and that his virtues were authentic. He was banned for years from saying Mass in public, even as his following grew immensely.

Pope canonises Padre Pio (Reuters)
Padre Pio Is Still a Mystery, Says Postulator (Zenit)
Prayer Groups a Worldwide Legacy of Padre Pio (Zenit)


17 Jun 2002