(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday greeted members of “Padre Pio” Prayer Groups, who are in Rome to venerate the relics of the great saint, which have been translated to St. Peter’s Basilica and are there exposed for veneration by the faithful in connection with the ongoing Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
St. Pius of Pietralcina – or San Padre Pio, as he is popularly known around the world – was a Capuchin friar with a worldwide reputation during his earthly life as a mystic and miracle-worker, who was also a tireless confessor and laborer in favor of the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden.
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It is in connection with efforts to renew appreciation of and rekindle love for the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation that Pope Francis has asked that the relics of St. Padre Pio be brought to Rome – together with those of another great Capuchin confessor, St. Leopold Mandic. In remarks prepared for the occasion of the prayer groups’ visit, Pope Francis reflected that St. Pius became, through the ministry of Confession, a living caress of the Father who heals the wounds of sin and restores the heart with peace. “St. Pius never tired of welcoming persons and listening to them, never tired of passing time and energy to spread the scent of the Lord’s pardon,” he said.
The “Padre Pio” prayer groups were founded in the mid-20th century by the saint himself, and are present in virtually every Italian region and in scores of countries around the world, and Pope Francis thanked the many of their number who had made the trip to Rome for the occasion, saying that prayer is the greatest strength of the Church and that we must never let go of the habit of prayer, since the Church bears fruit only if she does as Our Lady and the Apostles, who were, “persevering with one mind in prayer. (Acts 1:14)”
Pope Francis encouraged the participants to continue in their imitation of Padre Pio, as apostles of prayer and as helpers of the sick and needy – and thus to continue to give example of the great love that builds up the Church, when Christians take and practice seriously the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.