Father Georges Cottier, Papal Household theologian, responds: “The prototype of the real son of St. Francis.”
Father Cottier, a Dominican, knows the friar well, as well as the innumerable saints and blessed that John Paul II has raised to the altars.
Q: Why should a figure like Padre Pio be proposed to the Church and the world?
Father Cottier: Because he knew how to live with key virtues such as humility and poverty, and because he has put forward again, with totally singular effectiveness, the importance of the sacraments of the Eucharist and penance: to live according to the beatitudes, to seek salvation in a eucharistic life, to count on God´s mercy. This was his secret.
Padre Pio, like the figure of other contemporary saints — I am thinking of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus — is a grace that God has given the Church of today; also, because he is a saint who touches all men´s hearts. Few have this charism.
Q: There are those who say that Padre Pio is only a figure for “simple souls.” What do you think?
Father Cottier: His love for confession leads us to look at the merciful face of God: It is a message that surpasses all ideological objections and encourages us to hope even in face of the continual manifestation of human miseries.
If the last word on the world and on each one of us is one of mercy, then we have reasons for hope; if not, bitterness and discouragement prevail. This is what Padre Pio tells us. It is a message addressed to all.
Q: Is his popularity an advantage or a problem?
Father Cottier: The devil has always shown great interest in God´s great gifts to the Church. Mistaken devotion, as well as indifference, are his favorite victories.
However, I think that all folklore around Padre Pio must be looked at carefully, because it is also a spontaneous expression of faith. Hence, it must be respected and safeguarded from excessive and ambiguous forms. Whoever met the new saint knows that he was, in the first place, very severe in all this.
Q: Millions of Christians ask Padre Pio for favors. Is he not being used?
Father Cottier: The Church has always prayed to the saints to obtain special favors from heaven. It is right to continue to do so but without falling prey to automatism.
We know that the prayer of a saint before God is much more effective than our own. Above all, the Church teaches that when a saint is canonized, God wills to manifest grace through his mediation. Therefore, it is good to “take advantage” of this moment when the Church is concerned with an infallible pronouncement of the Pope, indicating a sure way to us.
The technocratic culture tends to forget the power of prayer. In part for this reason, Padre Pio is extraordinarily timely.