“I am glad to be in this town, where Francesco Forgione was born and began his long and fruitful human and spiritual life,” Pope Francis told the crowds after his arrival March 17, 2018, in Pietrelcina, the birthplace of the man who would become St. Padre Pio.
“In this community, he tempered his humanity, he learned to pray and to recognize in the poor the flesh of the Lord, so that he grew in following Christ and requested to be admitted to the Friars Minor Capuchin, becoming in this way Brother Pio of Pietrelcina,” the Pope said. “He loved the Church, he loved the Church with all her problems, with all her difficulties, with all her sins.”
The Holy Father recalled the period when St. Pio returned to his hometown to recover his health, noting that he never denied his hometown nor his origins. It was a simpler time.
“At that time there were no antibiotics and diseases were treated by returning to one’s hometown, to one’s mother, to eat things that are good for you, to breathe the air well and to pray,” the Pope reminded the crowd. “This is what he did, like any other man, like a peasant. This was his nobility…in that time he resided in the town of his birth for health reasons.”
The Holy Father continued with his reminder that those were hard times for St. Pio. He was “greatly tormented inwardly” and “feared to fall prey to sin.”
That threat of sin was the result of the assault of the Devil, Pope Francis continued. And he asked the crowd and bishops present if the devil exists? The crowd said “yes”.
“In those terrible moments, Father Pio drew vital lymph from the continuous prayer and the trust he was able to place in the Lord: ‘All the ugly ghosts – so he said – that the devil is introducing into my mind disappear when I trustfully abandon myself to the arms of Jesus’. Here there is all theology! You have a problem, you are sad, you are sick: abandon yourself to the arms of Jesus. And this is what he did.”
Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the faithful of Pietrelcina and of the diocese of Benevento, to imitate St. Pio, who is among “the most beautiful and luminous figures of your people”. By imitating his “heroic example and his virtues, may you also become instruments of God’s love, of Jesus’ love for the weakest.”