To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the death of Padre Pio, Italy’s favourite saint, his body will be exhumed, given a “check-up” and put on display for a few months, church leaders have decided.Renowned for his stigmata and miracle work, St Pius – still known as Padre Pio by his followers – was canonised in 2002 to popular acclaim and around 7 million pilgrims visit his tomb annually at the friary in Puglia, southern Italy, where he died in 1968.
To mark the anniversary of his death, the local archbishop, Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio, said on Sunday that the Capuchin friar’s body would be exhumed from its tomb at the sanctuary church “to check on the state of it and to carry out all the necessary work to guarantee the best conditions for its conservation.”
When the work is completed, the body will go on display in April for “a few months”
The exhumation of the saint, who was credited with more than 1,000 miracle cures, has been approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal JosÃ© Saraiva Martins, told Il Giornale yesterday that the exhumation was a standard procedure to check on the state of the body of a beatified or canonised person, and had been undertaken in 2001 on the body of the Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963 and was beatified, one step before sainthood.
The practice has its origins in the need to confirm that tombs of saints-to-be contain the right body. Check-ups on the body’s state of preservation and the removal of relics are reasons given by applicants to the congregation for later exhumations.