Today Francis visits the birthplace of the saint and San Giovanni Rotondo on the centenary of the appearance of the permanent stigmata of Saint Pio and on the 50th anniversary of his death. In his native country "he was strongly tormented in his heart and he feared to fall into sin, feeling assaulted by the devil". "The devil - he added - tempts us".
Pietrelcina (AsiaNews) – May the example of Padre Pio make his fellow citizens "instruments of the love of Jesus for the weakest"; May his teaching be of help to a land "in a difficult moment like the present one, while the population progressively decreases and ages because many young people are forced to go elsewhere to look for work". These were the paryers with which Pope Francis began his vist to Pietrelcina, the birthplace of the saint with the stigmata, before moving to San Giovanni Rotondo on the centenary of the appearance of the permanent stigmata of Saint Pio and on the 50th anniversary of the death of Saint.
Arriving in the small town of Campania a few minutes before 8, Francis stopped briefly in prayer in the Saint Francis chapel in front of the elm of the stigmata and then addressed a greeting to some thousands of people gathered there.
In this community, the Pope recalled, "his humanity was molded, he learned to pray and recognize the Lord's flesh in the poor, until he grew in the following of Christ and asked to be admitted among the Capuchin Friars Minor, thus becoming Pio from Pietrelcina. Here he began to experience the motherhood of the Church, of which he was always a devoted son". "He loved the Church, with all its limitations and all its sins, the holy Church and sinners".
"We find ourselves today in the same ground on which Padre Pio lived from September 1911 to 'breathe some' healthier air 'after he had' experienced its beneficial effects on his body (Letter 44, in Epistolario I, page 233 ). At that time, in fact, he resided in his native country for health reasons. As there were no antibiotics. "
"That was not an easy time for him: he was deeply tormented in his heart and he feared falling into sin, feeling assaulted by the devil". "The devil - he added - tempts us". "He could speak with few people about it , wither by letter or in his village: to the archpriest alone, Fr Salvatore Pannullo he manifested" almost everything" in his "intent to find some clarity" (Letter 57, in Epistolario I, p.
"In those terrible moments Padre Pio drew vital sustenance from continuous prayer and trust that he placed in the Lord:" All the ugly ghosts that the devil is introducing me to my mind disappear when I trust myself to abandon myself in the arms of Jesus ". So he wrote to the Provincial Superior, Father Benedetto, in March 1911, asserting that his heart felt "as attracted by a superior force before joining him in the morning in the sacrament". "And this hunger and thirst rather than remaining satisfied", after receiving it, "grows [more] more and more" (Letter 31, in Epistolary I, page 217). Padre Pio immersed himself in prayer to adhere ever better to the divine designs. Through the celebration of the Holy Mass, which was the heart of every day, and the fullness of his spirituality, he reached a high level of union with the Lord. During this period, he received special mystical gifts from above, which preceded the manifestation in his flesh of the signs of the Passion of Christ ".
"Dear brothers and sisters of Pietrelcina and of the diocese of Benevento, you include St. Pius among the most beautiful and luminous figures of your people. This humble Capuchin friar amazed the world with his life devoted to prayer and to the patient listening of the brothers, on whose sufferings he poured out the love of Christ as a balm. Imitating his heroic example and his virtues, may you also become instruments of Jesus' love for the weakest. At the same time, considering his unconditional loyalty to the Church, you will bear witness to communion, because only the communion between us builds and builds. A country that quarrels every day does not grow, frightens people, while a country where everyone loves each other grows, grows, expands". "Please, peace between you, communion among you. And if someone wants to gossip about another with you, bite your tongue, it will do you good ".
"I hope that this territory will be able to draw new life from the teachings of the life of Padre Pio in a difficult time like the present one, while the population gradually decreases and ages because many young people are forced to go elsewhere to look for work. Internal migration of young people ". "And please do not marginalize old people, they are wisdom, they are the protagonists of your country".
"May the intercession of your Saint fellow citizen supports the intentions of unite the forces, so as to offer especially to the young generations concrete perspectives for a future of hope. May an attentive and tender attention to the elderly never be lacking, they are an incomparable heritage of our communities ". "I would really please me to see the Nobel Prize awarded once to the elderly, custodians of ourmemory".
I encourage this land to preserve the Christian and priestly testimony of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina as a precious treasure: May it be for each of you an incentive to live your life fully, in the style of the Beatitudes and with the works of mercy ".