What next for Padre Pio?
Devotees want St. Pio declared Doctor of the Church, want stigmata declared supernatural.

The Italian weekly Gente reports that efforts to study the Friar's theology and also the stigmata have been commissioned by the Capuchins.

Gente, Oct 24, 2002, pp. 70 - 74  by Paolo Scarano (dateline San Giovanni Rotondo). See www.frankrega.com for translation disclaimer.

The devotees and confreres of the saint have introduced a new canonical process to bestow on him the title of Doctor of the Church, already consigned to other exemplary figures of Christianity.  They are also asking that an inquiry commence into the supernaturality of his stigmata. 

It was the feast that marked the definitive consecration of Padre Pio, and the usual enthusiastic throngs of his devotees celebrated the religious ceremonies at San Giovanni Rotondo.  On this past September 23, the anniversary of his death in 1968, the name of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, proclaimed as such on June 16 by Pope John Paul II, made its first appearance in the liturgical calendar.  The faithful responded to the number of 60,000 to the call of this latest important official celebration.

When the curtain fell on the ceremonies at San Giovanni, some people asked themselves about the future.  Was this the ultimate feast in honor of the Friar, the final great event capable of drawing the crowds of pilgrims from all over the world to this city on the Gargano where he lived?  What more could there be to celebrate in the name of Padre Pio, after all of the stages conquered by him on his ascent to heavenly glory?

This climb does not finish here: that is the surprising response.  Not content with the saintly honors so implored by the urging of the people, the devotees of the beloved Capuchin are preparing new goals.  They desire that he be bestowed with the most prominent and ultimate title of the great protagonists of Christianity: that of Doctor of the Church.

It is an honorary title, part of a very old ecclesiastical tradition, that is conceded to someone who had personal sanctity and above all who was capable of spreading the gospel message with maximum efficiency. It does not require a miracle, as in the cases of beatification and canonization, but a strict examination of the thinking of the elect soul, of his writings, of his teachings.  And then to definitively become a Doctor of the Church, or, that is,  master of the doctrine of the Faith.

In the history of Catholicism diverse eminent and popular exemplars of sanctity have received this honor:  the patron saint of Italy Saint Catherine of Siena, a medieval mystic who like Padre Pio experienced the stigmata; the Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, an Aristotelian philosopher and author of fundamental texts on theology; the noble Neopolitan intellectual Saint Alphonsus Liquori, theologian, poet, musician, and jurist, who in the Enlightenment of the 18th century blended his knowledge with untiring labors for the poor; Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, the French Carmelite nun who lived in the 1800's and authored the best seller Story of a Soul, which outlined the everyday little way towards holiness.

And now it is also wished that Saint Pio of Pietrelcina be given equal recognition for his mission as a teacher of Christian principles, reaching the level of the these giants of sacred wisdom. This is not only the desire of the faithful who gather at San Giovanni Rotondo.  It is the precise proposal of the vice postulator of the cause of the canonization of Padre Pio, Fr. Gerardo De Flumeri, who before completing his assignment, has composed on behalf of the Capuchins a commission of scholars to investigate the theological capacities of the saintly Friar, in order to eventually consign to the Vatican the request to obtain for him the title of Doctor of the Church.

It does not stop here.  The very same Fr. De Flumeri, again while concluding his responsibilities, has instituted on behalf of his order another commission of experts, called to evaluate the famous stigmata of the Saint of the Gargano.  The goal is to obtain an official declaration on the part of the Church that attests to the supernaturality of the phenomenon of the wounds that cost the Capuchin religious, from their appearance in 1918, painful inquests and inspections in the part of the Vatican authorities. If this investigation comes to a good conclusion, it would be a spectacular occurrence: only in case of Saint Francis of Assisi, recognized as the spiritual father of the monk and mystic of Pietrelcina, has the Catholic Church officially declared the spiritual origin of the wounds that resemble those of Jesus crucified.

[The remainder of this article consists of an interview with an Italian author and biographer of Padre Pio].


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Copyright 2002 Frank M. Rega