HOMILY On THE beatification of Padre pio
H.H. John Paul II
Sunday, May 2, 1999
“Sing a new song to the
1. The summons of the
entrance antiphon captures well the joy of so many of the
faithful who have long awaited the beatification of Padre Pio
of Pietrelcina. By his life given wholly to prayer and to
listening to his brothers and sisters, this humble Capuchin
friar astonished the world.
Countless people came to
meet him in the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and, since his
death, the flow of pilgrims has not ceased. When I was a student
here in Rome, I myself had the chance to meet him personally,
and I thank God for allowing me today to enter Padre Pio's name
in the book of the blessed.
Guided by the texts of
this Fifth Sunday of Easter, which provides the context for the
beatification, let us this morning trace the main features of
his spiritual experience.
2. “Do not let your
hearts be troubled. Believe in God and believe also in me” (Jn
14:1). In the Gospel just proclaimed, we heard these words of
Jesus to his disciples who were in need of encouragement. In
fact, his allusion to his imminent departure had thrown them
into turmoil. They were afraid of being abandoned, of being
alone, and the Lord consoled them with a very specific promise:
“I am going to prepare a place for you”, and then, “I
will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you
may be also” (Jn 14:2-3).
Through Thomas, the
Apostles reply to this reassurance: “Lord, we do not know
where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn
14:5). The remark is apt, and Jesus does not avoid the question
which it implies. The answer he gives will remain for ever a
light shining for generations still to come: “I am the way
and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by
me” (Jn 14:6).
The “place” that Jesus
goes to prepare is in “the house of the Father”; there the
disciple will be able to be with the Master for all eternity and
share in his joy. Yet there is only one path that leads there:
Christ, to whom the disciple must be conformed more and more.
Holiness consists precisely in this: that it is no longer the
Christian who lives, but Christ himself who lives in him (cf.
Gal 2:20). An exhilarating goal, accompanied by a promise
which is no less consoling: “Whoever believes in me will also
do the works that I do, and greater works than I will they do,
because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:12).
3. We hear these words of
Christ and think of the humble friar of Gargano. How clearly
were they fulfilled in Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina!
“Do not let your hearts
be troubled. Believe ...”. What was the life of this humble
son of St Francis if not a constant act of faith,
strengthened by the hope of heaven, where he could be with
“I am going to prepare
a place for you ... that where I am you may be also”. What
other purpose was there for the demanding ascetical practices
which Padre Pio undertook from his early youth, if not
gradually to identify himself with the Divine Master, so
that he could be “where he was”?
Those who went to San
Giovanni Rotondo to attend his Mass, to seek his counsel or to
confess to him, saw in him a living image of Christ suffering
and risen. The face of Padre Pio reflected the light of the
Resurrection. His body, marked by the “stigmata”, showed
forth the intimate bond between death and resurrection which
characterizes the paschal mystery. Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina
shared in the Passion with a special intensity: the unique
gifts which were given to him, and the interior and mystical
sufferings which accompanied them, allowed him constantly to
participate in the Lord's agonies, never wavering in his sense
that “Calvary is the hill of the saints”.
4. No less painful, and
perhaps even more distressing from a human point of view, were
the trials which he had to endure as a result, it might
be said, of his incomparable charisms. It happens at times in
the history of holiness that, by God's special permission, the
one chosen is misunderstood. In that case, obedience
becomes for him a crucible of purification, a path of
gradual assimilation to Christ, a strengthening of true
holiness. In this regard, Bl. Pio wrote to one of his superiors:
“I strive only to obey you, the good God having made known to me
the one thing most acceptable to him and the one way for me to
hope for salvation and to sing of victory” (Letter I, p.
When the “storm” broke
upon him, he took as his rule of life the exhortation of the
First Letter of Peter, that we have just heard: Come to
Christ, a living stone (cf. 1 Pt 2:4). He himself
thus became a “living stone” for the building of that spiritual
house which is the Church. For this we today give thanks to the
5. “You too are living
stones, built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). How
fitting are these words if we apply them to the extraordinary
ecclesial experience which grew up around the new blessed!
So many people, meeting him directly or indirectly, rediscovered
their faith; inspired by his example, “prayer groups” sprang up
in every corner of the world. To all who flocked to him he held
up the ideal of holiness, repeating to them: “It seems that
Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul” (Letter
II, p. 155).
If God's Providence willed
that he should be active without ever leaving his convent, as
though he were “planted” at the foot of the Cross, this
is not without significance. One day the Divine Master had to
console him, at a moment of particular trial, by telling him
that “it is under the Cross that one learns to love” (Letter
I, p. 339).
The Cross of Christ is
truly the outstanding school of love; indeed, the very
“well-spring” of love. Purified by suffering, the love of this
faithful disciple drew hearts to Christ and to his demanding
Gospel of salvation.
6. At the same time, his
charity was poured out like balm on the weaknesses and the
sufferings of his brothers and sisters. Padre Pio thus
united zeal for souls with a concern for human suffering,
working to build at San Giovanni Rotondo a hospital complex
which he called the “House for the Relief of Suffering”. He
wanted it to be a first-class hospital, but above all he was
concerned that the medicine practised there would be
truly “human”, treating patients with warm concern and
sincere attention. He was quite aware that people who are ill
and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also,
and more importantly, a human and spiritual climate to help them
rediscover themselves in an encounter with the love of God and
with the kindness of their brothers and sisters.
With the “House for the
Relief of Suffering”, he wished to show that God's “ordinary
miracles” take place in and through our charity. We need
to be open to compassion and to the generous service of our
brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science
and technology at our disposal.
7. The echo stirred by
this beatification in Italy and throughout the world shows that
the fame of Padre Pio, a son of Italy and of Francis of Assisi,
has gone forth to embrace all the continents. And I gladly greet
those who have gathered here — in the first place the Italian
authorities who have chosen to be present: the President of the
Republic, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister, who
leads the official delegation, and the many other ministers and
distinguished guests. Italy is represented most worthily! But
also the many faithful from other nations have gathered here to
pay homage to Padre Pio.
My affectionate greeting
goes to all who have come from near and far, with a special
thought for the Capuchin Fathers. To everyone I offer heartfelt
8. Let me conclude with
the words of the Gospel of this Mass: “Do not let your hearts
be troubled. Have faith in God”. There is a reference to
this exhortation of Christ in the advice which the new blessed
never tired of giving to the faithful: “Abandon yourselves fully
to the divine heart of Jesus, like a child in the arms of his
mother”. May these words of encouragement fill our hearts too
and become a source of peace, serenity and joy. Why should we
fear, if Christ for us is the Way, and the Truth and the
Life? Why should we not trust in God who is the Father, our
May “Our Lady of Graces”,
whom the humble Capuchin of Pietrelcina invoked with constant
and tender devotion, help us to keep our gaze fixed on God. May
she take us by the hand and lead us to seek wholeheartedly that
supernatural charity flowing forth from the wounded side of the
And you, Bl. Padre Pio,
look down from heaven upon us assembled in this square and upon
all gathered in prayer before the Basilica of St John Lateran
and in San Giovanni Rotondo. Intercede for all those who, in
every part of the world, are spiritually united with this event
and raise their prayers to you. Come to the help of everyone;
give peace and consolation to every heart. Amen!
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