VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The pilgrims who attend Padre Pio´s canonization in St. Peter´s Square this Sunday might break all records.
The Capuchin friar´s beatification on May 2, 1999, attracted 300,000 faithful. Another 100,000 had to follow the ceremony on giant TV screens in St. John Lateran Square, given the lack of space in the Vatican.
Only one event in the history of Rome attracted a greater number of faithful: World Youth Day 2000, which drew 2 million young people to the outskirts of the city.
It is impossible to estimate the size of the crowd for this Sunday´s ceremony. The House for the Relief of Suffering of San Giovanni Rotondo, which Padre Pio founded, has already issued 250,000 free tickets for the Mass.
Organizers have reported that some 12 giant TV screens will be installed in the Via della Conciliazione, which runs into St. Peter´s Square, to facilitate the viewing of the ceremony.
Early on Sunday morning, 4,000 buses and 50 special trains are expected to arrive in Rome.
Beginning on Thursday and continuing until Saturday, a special solemn rite in preparation for the canonization is being held every day in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. It includes the rosary, led by Father Pietro Bongiovanni, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, and Mass.
Some 150 groups, in parishes, universities, hospitals and homes for the elderly throughout Rome, are preparing for the event.
In the Church of St. Francis´ Holy Stigmata in Rome, where a Mass was celebrated in 1968 for the deceased friar´s soul, the flow of pilgrims is constant.
“People come in at all hours. They remain recollected in prayer for a few moments and then leave,” the church´s rector, Father Antonino Ubaldi, said.
There will be a thanksgiving liturgy in this church at 5:30 p.m. on June 21, similar to the first Mass 30 years ago, which was presided over by Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.
The Diocese of Rome is holding an exhibition entitled “Padre Pio: The Great Light,” which displays relics, photographs and objects that belonged to the saint. The exhibition includes scientific aspects of some of the mysteries of the Capuchin´s life.
At the very moment that John Paul II proclaims Padre Pio´s sanctity, the Indian Diocese of Tura, in the state of Meghalaya, will place the first stone of a church, an outpatient clinic, and a school dedicated to the friar of Pietrelcina.
What would Padre Pio think of all this commotion?
Father Florio Alessandro Tessari, the general postulator of the friar´s cause of canonization, replied: “He would not have liked it. He was a very reserved person and he would have fled from so much noise.”
“What is important is that we not forget that we must not place him above all,” the priest added. “Jesus Christ is the authentic and sole protagonist of salvation.”