SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, SEPT. 25, 2002 (Zenit.org).- About 60,000 people celebrated, for the first time, the liturgical feast of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, the place where the Capuchin friar lived.
Monday’s date was established in memory of the death of the “friar of the stigmata” on Sept. 23, 1968.
The celebrations began the previous midnight with a Mass presided over by Father John Corriveau, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins. Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, president of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs, attended.
An outdoor Mass was celebrated Monday by Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, prefect of Apostolic Signature, the Church’s supreme court. It was followed by a procession with a statue and relics of the saint. Pilgrims had to cope with torrential rains.
In the morning, the people welcomed 12 marathon runners who ran all the way from Rome, which they left Sept. 18, after attending an audience with John Paul II. The athletes brought a message from the Holy Father addressed to the Capuchin friars.
“We also brought the flame of peace. We met many people along the route who, moved by their faith, joined us for part of the way,” the athletes’ spokesman, Marco Pasquali, said.
When they arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, the athletes visited the places where St. Pio of Pietrelcina lived, and prayed before his crypt.
“It has been a very moving experience, which has profoundly touched our consciences. After meeting with the Pope, we are now in San Giovanni Rotondo, where there are traces of St. Pio’s profound spirituality in all areas of the shrine and monastery,” Pasquali concluded.