At Last, the Church Padre Pio Wanted

Landmark in Italy Is Inaugurated; Can Seat 6,500

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JULY 2, 2004 ( Government officials and humble pilgrims alike attended the inauguration of a monumental church built in response to St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s wish, in the town where the “friar of the stigmata” lived.

The church, designed by the architect Renzo Piano, has been described by some of the Italian media as the largest in the Catholic world, after St. Peter’s Basilica.

Holy See spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls, who attended the inauguration Mass on Thursday, said that John Paul II “is pleased with St. Giovanni Rotondo and with this new church.”

The Mass was presided over by Archbishop Domenico D’Ambrosio of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, the Holy See’s delegate for the St. Pio de Pietrelcina Shrine.

In his homily, the archbishop said that the new church constitutes a call to holiness, as was the life of the Capuchin religious.

Among the concelebrants were more than 25 bishops; Archbishop Paolo Romeo, apostolic nuncio in Italy who represented the Pope; and Father John Corriveau, minister general of the Capuchin Franciscans.

Construction on the new church began in 1994, although Padre Pio already spoke about it in 1959. On July 1 of that year, the new church of St. Mary of Graces was inaugurated, and the Capuchin friar asked jokingly: “What have you built? A matchbox?”

“The next church must be made larger,” Padre Pio told his brother Capuchins.