Padre Pio Canonized, and Hailed as Model of Prayer and Charity

Hundreds of Thousands Turn Out as Capuchin Is Honored

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2002 ( More than 300,000 people turned out for the canonization of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the world-renowned Capuchin friar whom John Paul II praised for his prayer and charity.

«The new saint invites us to place God above all, and to consider him our sole and highest good,» the Pope said during his homily at the ceremony.

Padre Pio, whose baptismal name was Francesco Forgione, died in 1968 at age 81.

Forming one of the largest crowds ever at the Vatican, pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square braved temperatures that reached 36 degrees Celsius (97 F). Tens of thousands more crowded into the Via della Conciliazione and nearby squares, following the liturgy on giant TV screens. Organizers distributed thousands of bottles of water.

At 10:25 a.m. the Pope, wearing white and gold vestments, pronounced in Latin, at times in a shaky voice, the formula with which he inscribed Padre Pio in the register of saints.

The 462nd saint proclaimed by this pontificate is perhaps the most known and loved, especially in Italy. Several thousand prayer groups, inspired by the friar´s spirituality, are spread throughout the world.

Among those present were two people whose miraculous cures are attributed to Padre Pio´s intercession: Consiglia De Martino, cured of a terminal illness in 1992, and Matteo Colella, 10, who two years ago entered what doctors thought would be an irreversible coma, caused by galloping meningitis. The first cure made possible the Capuchin´s beatification; the second, his canonization.

Summarizing the legacy of Padre Pio, the Holy Father said: «Prayer and charity, this is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio´s teaching, which is proposed again today to everyone.»

The day was also celebrated in San Giovanni Rotondo, at Foggia, Italy, where the friar lived and founded the House for the Relief of Suffering. Sixty thousand people gathered there.

«How timely is the spirituality of the cross lived by the humble Capuchin of Pietrelcina! Our times have need of rediscovering its value in order to open the heart to hope,» the Holy Father said during his homily.

At the end of the Mass, when John Paul II prayed the Angelus, he announced that Padre Pio´s liturgical memorial will have an «obligatory» character, and will be celebrated Sept. 23, the anniversary of his death.

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