Vatican Won´t Intervene at Padre Pio´s Community

Denies Press Reports About Financial Problems

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2001 ( The Vatican has not sent, nor intends to send, an inspector to control the financial administration of the friars of Padre Pio´s community in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed the news Saturday in an official statement that denied recent press reports on alleged financial problems at the community.

«The Holy See has not sent, nor does it intend to send, an apostolic visitor to the Shrine of Blessed Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo, respecting the autonomy of religious institutes, which are directly responsible for the administration of their own economic goods,» the Vatican statement said.

The shrine has received 6 million visitors and attracts more pilgrims than Lourdes. It is dedicated to the Capuchin priest (1887-1968) who was beatified in 1999. Scientists are now analyzing a purported miracle that could lead to his being declared a saint.

Following the Vatican statement, the Capuchin province of Sant´Angelo-Foggia, to which the shrine belongs, published a press statement, in which spokesman Stefano Campanella thanked the Holy See «for having pronounced words of clarification, which we hope will serve to put an end to the long series of unfounded news, successively denied» over the last few days.

Campanella referred to certain «revelations» on the alleged decision of the Capuchins to stop construction work on the new shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo because of a decrease of income due to a reduced flow of pilgrims and donations in recent times.

Some newspapers said the community´s financial difficulties were also due to a fraud of several million dollars by financial agent Nicola Avrogna, who later declared himself bankrupt. These events, however, occurred six years ago, and the accused was later sentenced by Italian justice for fraudulent bankruptcy.

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