Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Padre Pio Fans Angry at Vatican Over Plans to Exhume Saint's Body

We've been getting conflicting reports as to why the Vatican plans to exhume the body of the beloved Saint, Padre Pio. Whatever the reason, Padre Pio pilgrims are hopping mad.

From the BBC:
The bishop of San Giovanni Rotondo announced at the weekend that the corpse would be exhumed and put on display for several months in the town where he spent most of his life.
Padre Pio, one of Italy's most popular saints, was canonized in 2002. An attorney for the saint's niece has threatened to sue calling the idea a "profanation of the remains of the monk."

Padre Pio's remains are interred in a church crypt in San Giovanni Rotondo in south Italy.
Church authorities say they want to display the body for veneration by the faithful for several months from April.
From the Telegraph:
The Holy See said the exhumation was simply to "check on the state of the body" on the 40th anniversary of the saint's death.

It underlined that it was not digging up the body in order to verify Padre Pio's controversial claim to have stigmata.

"We authorised it because it is a normal procedure," said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

"We have to value the state of the body and its conservation. We often do it.
Veneration is the act of "honoring" the dead.

More on Padre Pio:
Blessed Padre Pio lived from 1887 to 1968. He was renowned for his many miracles, his legendary fights with the devil, his being at two places at one time (bilocation), and his ability to predict the future.

He also had the gift of reading souls in the confessional, and to tell the penitents accurately the secret sins they had failed to confess.

For 50 years, Padre Pio bore the mystical stigmata, the bleeding wounds of Christ, on his hands, feet and side. He offered this suffering for the salvation of souls. During the holy friar's lifetime, thousands of Catholics flocked from all over the world to attend his Mass and receive from him the Sacrament of Confession.

Padre Pio was beatified at the Vatican on May 2, 1999. The event was attended by an estimated 200,000 people and was called "the most popular beatification in history". Source - fatima.org
St. Bernadette is one such Saint already on display since 1925 at Saint-Gildard's Convent in Nevers, France.

Before Bernadette could be confirmed to "sainthood" status her body was exhumed not once, but three times.
After thirty years undisturbed in the tomb, Sister Marie Bernard's body was exhumed for examination. The cause for sainthood had begun. When the stone was lifted from the vault, the coffin was immediately seen. It was carried to the room prepared for it and placed on two trestles covered with a cloth. On one side was a table covered with a white cloth. The remains of Bernadette were to be placed on this table. The wooden coffin was unscrewed and the lead coffin cut open to reveal the body in a state of perfect preservation. There was not the slightest trace of an unpleasant smell. The Sisters who had buried her thirty years earlier noted only that her hands had fallen slightly to the left.
Ten years after the first exhumation, Bernadette's body was once again dug up:
Ten years later, on April 3, 1919, another identification of the body of the venerable Bernadette was mandated. Doctor Talon and Doctor Comte conducted the examination in the presence of the Bishop of Nevers, the police commissioner, and representatives of the municipalities and church tribunal. Everything was just the same as at the first exhumation.
Bernadette's body was exhumed a third and final time in 1925 for the customary "taking of relics". From Dr. Comte's report written in 1928:
"I would have liked to open the left side of the thorax to take the ribs as relics and then remove the heart which I am certain must have survived. However, as the trunk was slightly supported on the left arm, it would have been rather difficult to try and get at the heart without doing too much noticeable damage. As the Mother Superior had expressed a desire for the Saint's heart to be kept together with the whole body, and as Monsignor the Bishop did not insist, I gave up the idea of opening the left-hand side of the thorax and contented myself with removing the two right ribs which were more accessible."

"What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon."
Bernadette was beautified in 1925. Beautification is sort of an "official" notice from the Vatican, which now "recognizes" a soul's ascension into Heaven, obviously with no known stop-overs on the way. The soul can now intercede with God on behalf of the people who pray in his or her name.

Bernadette was canonized, the "Official" Vatican Seal of Sainthood, in 1933. She is known as the patron Saint of sick persons and Lourdes.
A crystal coffin was made for Saint Bernadette's body. She was placed in a chapel in the Church of St. Gildard at the convent in Nevers where she lived for thirteen years. She has remained undisturbed and on view in this chapel since August 3, 1925. The Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction at Nevers are not secretive about the body of St. Bernadette. They welcome visitors, and encourage learning about the life example and messages of their sister saint. Source - Catholic Pilgrims

St. Bernadette at her death, April, 1879
Image - Catholic Pilgrims

St. Bernadette in her Crystal Coffin Display 1997
Image - Catholic Pilgrims

Exhumation of the "potential" saint was at one time standard practice. Padre Pio's body has remained undisturbed since his original burial.
Giuseppe Saldutto, the vice president of the Pro Padre Pio Association said: "We are against the exhumation. It might have been a logical choice when the process of beatification and canonization was underway, but now that he is a saint it is inopportune and out of place. [Telegraph]

It's rare to see a tussle over a Saint. There's something unsettling about disturbing the dead unless it's for a very good reason. We're not sure the Vatican has come up with one yet.

In the matter of exhumation, the legal argument may end up being who has the "right" to decide what happens to Padre Pio's body. Whether the bestowal of Sainthood by the Vatican supersedes the rights of the family.

Suing the Pope, there's a sin in there somewhere.

Image - Bridgebuilding
Source - Wiki


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