Vatican takes control of Padre Pio shrine
Vatican authorities have removed from the control of local Capuchins an Italian shrine devoted to St Padre Pio, angering the order that looks after one the world's most popular pilgrimage sites.
Pope John Paul II ordered that management of the sanctuary in the southeastern Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo pass to the local diocese.
However Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls stressed that the Capuchins will continue to take care of the sanctuary.
He continued: "The archbishop of the place has, however, the right and the duty to oversee pastoral activities that occur therein, as with every bishop in his diocese under the general norms of canon law."
The provincial leader of the Capuchin monks, the Fr Paolo Cuvino, sent a letter to Church officials, saying the brothers recognised the authority of the Vatican, but simply could not understand the decision.
He said in the letter: "We feel like we're returning to the dark times that Padre Pio knew, with a decision that seems to us hostile and punitive."
About 8 million pilgrims a year flood into this town 200 km east of Rome, bringing in some $A178.06 million.
Italian news reports suggested that the Vatican was worried about excessive commercialism of the saint's image.
Padre Pio: Navarro, brothers continue to take care of sanctuary (AGI)
Padre Pio - San Giovanni Rotondo
Big crowds at Vatican for Padre Pio canonisation (17/6/02)
TeleRadio Padre Pio
6 May 2003