From Staff Reports
After an historic 2017 U.S. tour, relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina – also known as Padre Pio – will resume a series of 2018 visits, making a Nov. 13 stop at St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Road, Freehold.
Public veneration of St. Pio’s relics will be available from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. including a glove, cotton gauze with St. Pio’s blood, a lock of hair, his mantle and handkerchief. Following veneration, Msgr. Thomas Gervasio, diocesan vicar general, will celebrate a 7 p.m. Mass.
The St. Pio Foundation, sponsors of the tour, will sell books and items related to Padre Pio in the Co-Cathedral entryway.
The 2018 tour marks the 50th commemoration of St. Pio’s death, Feb. 6 – May 11, and completing its journey Sept. 6 – Nov. 11. Nearly 250,000 faithful were attracted to the previous year’s tour, even drawing attention from Fox News, NBC, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. This year’s tour will include Mexico and Canada for the first time.
According to Co-Cathedral staff, the process for bringing the relics to the Co-Cathedral was initiated in April when it was learned from the St. Pio Foundation that the relics had to come at the invitation of the diocesan bishop. So Msgr. Sam Siranni, Co-Cathedral rector, inquired to Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., about the possibility of the Co-Cathedral being included in the 2018 tour. The Co-Cathedral's staff was originally told that they had reached a maximum number of tours for 2018, but was asked to be considered for the 2019 tour. However, the foundation later informed the Co-Cathedral there was an opening on Nov. 10.
According to the foundation's website, saintpiofoundation.org, St. Pio was born May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, as Francesco Forgione. First expressing a desire toward the priesthood at age 10, his father, Grazio immigrated to the United States for work to help pay for his son’s preparatory education.
The future saint entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a priest at 23 in 1910. Padre Pio was known throughout his life as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge, who bore the stigmata – the wounds Christ suffered during his Crucifixion, which can appear on the forehead, hands, wrists and feet.
His stigmata emerged during World War I, after Pope Benedict XV asked Christians to pray for an end to the conflict. Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ pierced his side. A few weeks later, on Sept. 20, 1918, Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the remaining stigmata, which remained with him until his death, Sept. 23, 1968. Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio in 2002.
Relics are not worshipped but treated with religious respect. The physical objects associated with a saint or candidate for sainthood include either part of a person’s body or something with which he or she was in contact. Touching or praying in the presence of relics can help a faithful individual focus on the saint’s life and virtues, so that through the saint’s intercession, the individual may draw closer to God.
The St. Pio Foundation is a national charitable organization that promotes awareness of St. Pio and his mission, working with institutions and individuals to serve “those in need of relief of suffering.” Funds raised by the foundation are used to provide grants to American Catholic healthcare, educational, social, religious and cultural partner organizations.
For more information, visit saintpiofoundation.org.