In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Saint Padre Pio’s death, some of his relics are traveling to Fairbanks in May. The visit is part of a nation-wide tour of dioceses across North and South America.
The traveling relics, which will be available for public veneration, include the following: Saint Pio’s glove, Saint Pio’s crusts of the wounds, cotton-gauze with Saint Pio’s blood stains, a lock of his hair, his mantle, and Saint Pio’s handkerchief soaked with his sweat hours before he died.
In the Catholic Church, relics are physical objects associated with a saint or candidate for sainthood – part of the person’s body or something with which he or she was in contact. Relics are not worshiped, but treated with religious respect. Touching or praying in the presence of such an object helps a faithful individual focus on the saint’s life and virtues, so that through the saint’s prayer or intercession before God, the individual will be drawn closer to God.
The relics will be on display to the public at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks on May 3 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A Mass will be celebrated in honor of Saint Pio that day at 12 p.m. This is the only scheduled stop for the relics in Alaska to date. Additional dioceses are continually being added to the tour, which is sponsored by the national nonprofit, Saint Pio Foundation. For information about the full tour, visit saintpiofoundation.org/event.
Saint Pio was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. In order to pay for the preparatory education, his father, Grazio Forgione, immigrated in the United States on 1899, where he worked for several years.
The future saint entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910 at age of 23. During his life, Saint Pio was known as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge. Much of his priesthood was spent hearing confessions. Catholics traveled from around the globe to have their confession heard by the future saint, as he was known for having the gift of being able to read souls.
Saint Pio also bore the stigmata. Stigmata is the term the Catholic Church uses to speak about the wounds an individual receives that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. They can appear on the forehead, hands, wrists, and feet.
Saint Pio’s stigmata emerged during World War I, after Pope Benedict XV asked Christians to pray for an end to the conflict. Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ pierced his side. A few weeks later, on September 20, 1918, Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the full stigmata. It remained with him until his death on September 23, 1968. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.