New "Padre Pio" awaits his Lenten torment
With 33 busloads of pilgrims and up to 10,000 people expected at a planned Sunday appearance by alleged stigmatic Br Elia, Naples Church authorities has cancelled the event citing fears over the Capuchin monks' growing fame and popularity.
The British Daily Telegraph reports that like Padre Pio, who displayed stigmata for the last 50 years of his life, Br Elia, whose face, hands and feet appear covered in blood each Lent is revered by fans from the country's poorest to World Cup-winning footballer Francesco Totti.
Yesterday was supposed to be a chance for as many as 10,000 people, including visitors from Britain, to meet Br Elia, 45, at the headquarters of the Jesuit movement in Naples.
Now that Lent has begun, time is running out to see him before he takes to his bed over April to undergo his annual torment.
Instead, his appearance was cancelled at the last minute by the Catholic Church, which is concerned about the rapid spread of Br Elia's fame.
The Vatican is reported to have asked Br Elia not to give interviews or to hold any public religious services until it has made up its mind on the veracity of his stigmata.
"For the last four years, the Vatican has sent doctors to his bedside over Easter to find out whether he really does show stigmata. Some of them said he did, others said he didn't so we still do not have a conclusion," said the spokesman.
Dr Carlo Marcelletti, one of Italy's foremost heart surgeons who witnessed his suffering last year, said the phenomenon was "scientifically inexplicable".
Officially, the Vatican has refused to comment, but one source said the silence was "actually because we are not sceptical".
Fiorella Turolli, the author of a book on Br Elia, said: "He suffers the Passion in exactly the same sequence as Christ. On Wednesday night he gets a crown of thorns pattern, and then he sheds tears of blood, and then signs of beating on his back. Finally on Friday he is a mask of blood and then the rebirth."
Br Elia claims to have had his first vision of the Virgin Mary at age seven and claims he can talk to angels.
He used to work as a postman, a grocer, a flower-seller and a prison chef before he joined a Capuchin monastery in Calvi, Umbria.
The Vatican turns away followers of the 'new Padre Pio'">Daily Telegraph, 26/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Padre Pio (Wikipedia)
27 Feb 2007