Body of St. Padre Pio goes on the road for Holy Year – Rome

The body of Padre Pio, a popular Roman Catholic saint who is said to have had the stigmata of Christ arrived in Rome Wednesday, where it will go on display at several churches including St Peter’s Basilica.

Encased in a crystal coffin, Padre Pio , who died in 1968, will first be taken to the Basilica of St Lawrence Outside the Walls and from there to San Salvatore in Lauro church before arriving at St Peter’s Basilica in a grand procession on Friday.

Pope Francis wishes Padre Pio and the reliquary of another less famous saint to represent the Missionaries of Mercy, priests who he will send forth on Ash Wednesday to bring forgiveness everywhere during the Catholic Church’s current Holy Year on the theme of mercy.

Earlier on Wednesday, a no-fly zone was declared of the southern Italian city of Foggia and nearby town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio’s body began the overland journey to Rome. The 500 kilometre route was lined with police officers and the saint got a full police escort to Rome, at Francis’ request.

The remains will stay in Rome until 11 February and will be guarded by between 800 and 1,000 police officers. Metal detectors will also be installed to screen pilgrims wishing to view Padre Pio in his coffin, which has been reinforced with bullet-proof glass ahead of being moved to St Peter’s.

Padre Pio, a Capuchin monk claimed to suffer from ‘stigmata’ – the bleeding wounds of Jesus on his hands and feet during his crucifixion.

Pio’s alleged stigmata was disputed for years with some observers suggesting he was a fake and had inflicted the wounds on himself with carbolic acid, but Church investigators cleared him each time.

His body was exhumed in 2008 in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he spent most of his life. The corpse was partially reconstructed with a lifelike silicone mask and preserved in a large, temperature-controlled display case so the faithful could view it.

There are thousands of “Padre Pio Prayer Groups” around the world,a and there will be a papal audience for such groups at the Vatican on Saturday.

Many Catholics claimed the brown-robed Padre Pio was able to predict events in their lives and knew what they were about to confess.

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