Remains of Padre Pio exhumed in Italy

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">In this photo released by the Voce Padre Pio organisation, Monday, March 3, 2008, organization Archbishop Domenico D&#39;Ambrosio opens the coffin containing the remains of Padre Pio, a hugely popular Italian saint whose body is due to go on public display later this year, Sunday March 2, 2008 in Rome. D&#39;Ambrosio, a Vatican-appointed envoy who oversaw the unearthing Sunday night, said the body had been well preserved. Padre Pio, a mystic Capuchin monk who had an enormous following in Italy and abroad, died in 1968 after living for decades with inexplicable, bleeding wounds on his hands and feet, like the wounds Jesus suffered at crucifixion. Pope John Paul II made him a saint in 2002. Church officials wanted to exhume the body so the faithful can pray before it this year, the 40th anniversary of his death. They also wanted to take measures to ensure it was well preserved. &#40;AP Photo&#47;Voce Padre Pio&#47;HO&#41;</span></div>
March 4, 2008 8:51:24 AM PST
The remains of Padre Pio, a hugely popular Italian saint whose body is due to go on public display later this year, have been exhumed, officials said Monday.

Bishop Domenico D'Ambrosio, a Vatican-appointed envoy who oversaw the unearthing Sunday night, said the body had been well preserved.

Padre Pio, a mystic Capuchin monk who had an enormous following in Italy and abroad, died in 1968 after living for decades with inexplicable, bleeding wounds on his hands and feet, like the wounds Jesus suffered at crucifixion. Pope John Paul II made him a saint in 2002.

Church officials wanted to exhume the body so the faithful can pray before it this year, the 40th anniversary of his death. They also wanted to take measures to ensure it was well preserved.

D'Ambrosio said there was no sign of the so-called stigmata on his limbs after an initial examination Sunday and Monday. But otherwise, the body had been "conserved well," he said.

"Padre Pio's fingernails are as if he had just had a manicure," D'Ambrosio said.

Padre Pio had a huge public following in life as in death, and his beatification and canonization ceremonies drew hundreds of thousands of people to the Vatican.

For decades, though, many in the Vatican were made uneasy by his popularity and had scorned him, doubting that his inexplicable wounds were real and that his mystical virtues were authentic. He was banned for years from saying Mass in public even as his following grew immensely.

Padre Pio's body will go on display starting in mid-April in San Giovanni Rotondo, a town near the Adriatic in southern Puglia, where he lived.


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