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Padre Pio (1887–1968)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Padre Pio, a modern saint and miracle worker, was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887, at Pietrelcina, Benevento, in southern Italy. Raised in relative poverty, he had a mystical bent. He was only fifteen when he became affiliated with the Capuchin Order, and he was made a full member four years later. He was ordained on August 10, 1910.
That he was truly an unusual person first became evident to his monastic brothers in 1918, when on September 20 Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus and received the STIGMATA on his hands and feet. Word spread through the order and in the surrounding community over the next months, and it was picked up in newspapers the following year. As a following developed across the country, in 1923 the Catholic Church made an initial assessment that the stigmata were not of supernatural origin. That ruling did little to stop the development of a following. Pio organized several social service projects, and people began to form prayer groups that supported the charitable efforts. The groups drawn to Padre Pio were pushed to the fringe of the Catholic Church, which officially denied the veracity of any of the unusual events reported in the monk’s life. At various times he was forbidden to hold public masses.
Knowledge of Padre Pio remained somewhat confined until World War II, when American soldiers discovered him. It was also in the 1940s that a young Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II), first visited him. However, after the war, Padre Pio turned his attention not to his increasing following, but to his several social projects, especially a hospital that was built near the monastery where he resided, San Giovanni Rotundo. Through the rest of his life he would manage the hospital, the House for the Relief of Suffering, spending much of his free time listening to confessions from the growing number of pilgrims. Stories circulated of a spectrum of paranormal occurrences, ranging from BI-LOCATIONS to miraculous HEALINGS. Among the better documented cases of the latter involved seven-year-old Matteo Pio Colella, the son of one of the hospital’s physicians. He was cured of meningitis in 2000 after being abandoned by his doctors, who concluded that he would soon die. He recovered quickly following a prayer vigil on his behalf. Matteo later said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard wearing a brown monastic habit.
Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968, and immediately a popular demand for his canonization arose. The effort on his behalf succeeded inthe 1990s, when Pope John Paul II oversaw the ceremonies at which Padre Pio was named venerable (1997), was beatified (1999), and finally canonized (2002). In recent years, the amount of popular literature on Pio has grown exponentially. The places associated with him at San Giobnani Rotundo have become pilgrimage sites, and he is honored globally through organizations such as the Padre Pio Foundation.