April 24, 2008 / 12:20 PM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX: Who was Padre Pio?

(Reuters) - The exhumed body of Padre Pio has been put on display in a glass sepulcher in the southern Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo.

Here are some details about the saint’s life.

LIFE OF PADRE PIO:

* Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, he was one of eight children in a family of peasant farmers in the southern village of Pietrelcina.

* He was ordained as a priest in 1910 and was said to have been marked with the stigmata eight years later. Padre Pio moved to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 where decades later he had built the giant hospital, Home for the Relief of Suffering.

* He lived most of his life in the San Giovanni Rotondo monastery where people flocked to have him hear their confessions.

* Padre Pio was said to have wrestled with the devil in his monastery cell, to have predicted events in the lives of visitors, to have known what penitents were about to confess and to have been seen in two places at once.

* For the last nine years of his life, Padre Pio said mass at a large modern church he had built in San Giovanni Rotondo to hold the huge numbers of visiting pilgrims. He died in 1968.

SAINTHOOD:

* Pope John Paul II made him a saint in 2002 at a ceremony attended by one of the biggest crowds seen in the Vatican. He was credited with performing two miracles after his death for people who prayed to him.

— The Church said it had found evidence of the medically inexplicable healing of an Italian woman who had a lung disease and prayed to Padre Pio.

— A second miracle was the curing of an 11-year-old Italian boy, Matteo Collella, who had meningitis when he was 9 and whose mother prayed to Padre Pio while her son was in a coma. The boy attended the ceremony.

— In his homily, John Paul recalled that as a young priest he had visited Padre Pio just after World War Two. The Pope said he had had the “privilege” to be confessed by Padre Pio.

WOUNDS:

* He had wounds in the hands, feet and side that corresponded with the wounds Christ suffered at the Crucifixion. He used brown fingerless gloves to absorb the blood and cover the wounds except when he said Mass.

* However, he was dogged during his life and after his death by accusations that he was a fraud. He was suspected of faking his mystic powers and even the “stigmata”. Padre Pio was investigated and rehabilitated twice by the Vatican and cleared of charges of sexual misconduct and fraud.

* About 750,000 people from around the world, mostly from Italy, have made reservations to view the body up to the end of December, according to church officials. About 7,200 people a day will file past the glass coffin.

* A poll in 2006 by Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana found that more Italian Catholics prayed to Padre Pio than to any other icon, including the Virgin Mary or Jesus.

* There are about 3,000 “Padre Pio Prayer Groups” around the world, with a total membership of 3 million.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit

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