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Padre Pio relics venerated at St. Ann Church

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This article has been updated. 

Relics of St. Padre Pio, a Capuchin priest who bore the stigmata of Jesus, were on public display over the weekend at St. Ann Church in Arlington, culminating with Mass celebrated May 21 by Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Father Jerome Fasano, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, was the homilist. Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde presided at the Mass and was among the thousands who visited St. Ann Church over the weekend.

Joyce and Nicholas Babiak were instrumental in getting the relics tour to stop at St. Ann’s.

The relics on display included a glove Padre Pio wore to cover the stigmata, a lock of hair, a piece of cloth with a blood stain from the stigmata, and a fragment from his bed.

Public veneration of the relics began Saturday after the vigil Mass and continued until 9 p.m. The veneration continued Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but it stopped during the celebration of Mass. 

Thousands of devotees formed a single line as they approached the relics, which were displayed in the chapel.

Grand Knight Jim Hamlin of the Padre Pio Knights of Columbus Council in Great Falls and Grand Knight Paolo Verrone of Our Lady of Hope Knights of Columbus Council in Potomac Falls escorted the relics to the altar. 

The Saint Pio Foundation said the nationwide tour corresponds with the 130th anniversary of the Italian-born saint’s birth.

Born Francesco Forgione May 25, 1887, to a poor family near Italy’s Adriatic coast, he entered the local Capuchin novitiate at the age of 15. He was ordained a priest in 1910 and almost immediately began informing his superiors that he was experiencing spiritual and physical signs, along with a number of health problems.

Beginning in 1918, at the age of 30, the priest reported bleeding from his hands, feet and side —  the stigmata wounds of Christ’s crucifixion. The wounds were said to have lasted 50 years, until his death in 1968.

Biographers reported that St. Padre Pio was uneasy about such phenomena, declaring, “I only want to be a friar who prays.” 

St. Padre Pio’s alleged signs and special powers soon helped attract massive crowds to his southern Italian monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. His Capuchin superiors tried to limit his public appearances and planned to transfer the priest, but they backed down after popular outcry.

St. Padre Pio was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002.

Related story: The Saint Pio Foundation honors Msgr. John Enzler, Sen. Rick and Karen Santorum

To see and buy photos from the St. Padre Pio relics tour go to catholicherald.smugmug.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017