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Born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, Padre Pio's father was a farmer and, from an early age he worked in the fields until he became a Capuchin novice at the age of sixteen, taking his vows in 1902 or 1903, which is when he became known as Padre Pio. He was ordained in 1910 but, due to bad health, he remained in his hometown of Pietrelcina, in southern Italy, with only brief visits to the monastery. In 1915, he was called to serve in the army he was soon discharged for poor health. He then went to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he remained the rest of his life. After his ordination in 1910, Padre Pio developed half-inch bloodless wounds in the middle of his hands, although he had not been injured. They remained for several days, then disappeared after prayer. These stigmatic wounds would appear off and on over the next eight years. In August of 1918, he experienced a mystical wounding during a vision. While he was hearing the confession of a young boy, an angel appeared to him in a vision, holding a long, steel blade that spewed fire. As he described it, the angel drove the blade into Padre Pio's soul with all its might. The pain was immense, and Padre Pio thought that he was dying, fearing that his internal organs had ruptured. He was in agony all night, and for the rest of his life he felt as he had been mortally wounded to the depths of his soul, and the wound remained open. On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio was kneeling in front of a crucifix when he received the stigmata, the first priest in the history of the Church to receive the five wounds of Christ. Doctors were unable to determine a natural cause, and the stigmata remained throughout his life. The wounds bled constantly, and it is said that the blood had the odor of roses and violets. Because of the wounds, he wore gloves at all times except during mass, and was unable to close his hands. He wore special shoes that covered the wounds on his feet. Padre Pio predicted that the wounds would heal at the time of his death, and this proved to be the case. Because of the stigmata, Padre Pio's popularity soared. However, the Church moved to silence him in 1923, forbidding him to preach or to write letters, although he was allowed to say Mass and to hear confessions. Padre Pio established the Home for the Relief of Suffering in 1940, creating, through donations, a hospital that was open to anyone who asked. Padre Pio died in 1968, and was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Even before his death, there were many within the Church who considered Padre Pio to be a saint. He was said to have the gift of many miraculous abilities and acts besides the stigmata. He made prophecies that were proven to be accurate. He was also known to bilocate on several occasions, the first occurring while he was a divinity student. At 11:00 pm he was in the choir, when he suddenly found himself in a home several miles away, in a home where the father was dying while his wife was giving birth to a daughter. The Virgin Mary appeared to him to say that she was entrusting the child to him. During this time, the wife of the dying man looked up and saw Padre Pio, dressed in his Capuchin habit. He turned, left the room, and then was nowhere to be found. Seventeen years later, Padre Pio heard the daughter's confession at Saint Peter's, then disappeared from the confessional. She became his disciple. Padre Pio also believed that he had a guardian angel who made it possible for him to understand languages that he had not learned, and who gave him the power of clairvoyance, particularly during confessions. He was not without detractors, however. During his life, the Vatican instituted more than one investigation into various claims that he had made. The local bishop, in particular, did not believe in Padre Pio's miracles, and charged that he was being used by the Capuchin brothers for financial advantage. The Vatican imposed sanctions on him in order to reduce the publicity he was receiving. At one point, he was forbidden from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, hearing confessions, showing his stigmata publically, and communicating with Padre Benedetto, his spiritual director. He was to be moved to convent in northern Italy, but the local people threatened to riot so the Vatican left him where he was. On more than one occasion, the Vatican made statements denyiing that any divine cause was involved in the events surrounding Padre Pio's life. Agostino Gernelli, a physician and friar, suggested that Padre Pio was kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. But when Pope Pius XI took office, he ordered the Holy See to reverse the ban on Padre Pio, and Pope Paul VI dismissed all accusations against him.



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