VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Padre Pio (1887-1968), the Church´s newest canonized saint, was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, in the Archdiocese of Benevento.
He was the son of Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio. According to the Vatican biography written for the occasion of his canonization, he was baptized the next day and given the name Francesco. At age 12 he received the sacrament of confirmation and made his first Communion.
On Jan. 6, 1903, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone, where on Jan. 22 he took the Franciscan habit and the name Brother Pio. At the end of his novitiate year he took simple vows, and on Jan. 27, 1907, made his solemn profession.
After he was ordained priest Aug. 10, 1910, at Benevento, he stayed at home with his family until 1916 for health reasons. In September of that year he was sent to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and remained there until his death.
Padre Pio was renowned for his work with the sacrament of reconciliation and for his reverence in celebrating the Mass.
On the level of social charity, he committed himself to relieving the pain and suffering of families, chiefly through the foundation of the House for the Relief of Suffering, opened on May 5, 1956.
He was devoted to prayer. “In books we seek God, in prayer we find him,” the Capuchin would say. “Prayer is the key which opens God´s heart.”
For more than 50 years, countless people had recourse to his ministry and his confessional, his counsel and his consolation.
Yet, he thought of himself as useless, unworthy of God´s gifts. Amid so much admiration around him, he would say: “I only want to be a poor friar who prays.”
On Feb. 20, 1971, barely three years after the death of Padre Pio, Pope Paul VI, speaking to the superiors of the Capuchin order, said of him: “Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher? Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was — it is not easy to say it — one who bore the wounds of Our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering.”
In the years following his death, his reputation for sanctity and miracles grew steadily. The Capuchin order took the steps prescribed by canon law to begin the cause of beatification and canonization.
After investigations and preliminary stages, Padre Pio was beatified May 2, 1999. Last Feb. 28 the decree of canonization was promulgated.