Padre Pio was born of simple, hardworking farming people on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, southern Italy. He was tutored privately until his entry to the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at the age of 15. Of feeble health but strong will, with the help of grace he completed the required studies and was ordained a priest in 1910.
On September 20, 1918 the five wounds of our Lord's passion appeared on his body, making him the first stigmatized priest on the history of the Catholic Church. Countless persons were attracted to his confessional and many more received his saintly counsel and spiritual guidance through correspondence.
His whole life was marked by long hours of prayer and continual austerity. His letters to his spiritual directors reveal the ineffable suffering, physical and spiritual, which accompanied him all through his life. They also reveal his deep union with God, his burning love for the Blessed Eucharist and Our Blessed Lady. Worn out by over half a century of intense suffering and constant apostolic activity in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio was called to his heavenly reward on September 23, 1968. After a public funeral, which attracted over 100,000 mourners, his body was entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church. Increasing numbers flock to his tomb from all parts of the world and many testify to spiritual and temporal graces received.
On the 16th of February 1973, the Archbishop of Manfredonia, Msgr. Valentino Vailati, consigned the documentation to the Sacred Congregation of the Causes of Saints so as to obtain the "nihil obstat" for the beginning of the process of his Beatification
On December 18, 1997, by the reading of the decree on the herocity of virtues, the Holy Father John Paul II declared Padre Pio "Venerable."
The steps taken in the process of Padre Pio's beatification are the following:
- March 20, 1983, the Diocesan Process was begun
- January 21, 1990, the aforesaid process was closed
- December 18, 1997, the reading of the decree on the herocity of the virtues
- December 21, 1998, the publication of the decree on the miracle
- Sunday, May 2, 1999, Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio Blessed.
The Beatification ceremonies in Rome, Italy were host to more than one million pilgrims. Here in the USA, Our Lady of Grace Chapel and Padre Pio Spirituality Centre (National Centre for Padre Pio) was host to over 20,000 pilgrims from as far as California, Canada and Guam.
Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina a Saint on June 16, 2002 in one of the largest attended liturgies ever in the Vatican's history. The Pope remarked that Padre Pio's spirituality and suffering are a valuable model for modern times. The Pope reemphasized his message at the end of the canonization liturgy by announcing Padre Pio's feast day, September 23rd, is an "obligatory memorial" in the church's general liturgical calendar.
The ranking of obligatory memorial accorded to Padre Pio means the celebration must be observed in Masses and the Liturgy of the Hours on the day it occurs unless an observance that takes precedence - a solemnity or feast - falls on the same day. St. Maximillian Kolbe, also in the Franciscan tradition, is the only other 20th century saint whose memorial is obligatory.