More than one million devotees over the next 18 months of the Italian mystic St Padre Pio are expected to view his exhumed body, which is on display for the first time since his death nearly 40 years ago.
Agence France Presse (AFP) reports on the first day of viewing late last week more than 15,000 people viewed the saint’s body and also attended a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints.
Cardinal Martins said in his homily, "What we see is a dead body, no longer animated by the breath of God. But Padre Pio is not simply a corpse: he lives on in communion with Jesus resurrected." The cardinal also called Padre Pio a "saint of the people."
The Italian state broadcaster RAI broadcast the events live across the country. According to AFP, Consilia De Martino, who was cured from a ruptured lymph duct through the Padre Pio’s intercession, was present. Her recovery was considered one of the miracles necessary for the saint’s canonization.
Padre Pio, a Capuchin friar, was credited by his fellow friars with more than 1,000 miraculous cures and interventions. Church authorities were sceptical of the reputed miracle worker until his death in 1968. He was canonised by Pope John Paul II.
In September 2009 the body will be returned to the crypt of Santa Maria delle Grazie church in San Giovanni Rotondo, next to the friary where Padre Pio lived for most of his life.
Devotees flock by the thousands to view Padre Pio's body (CNA, 26/4/2008)