04/24/2008, 00.00
ITALY
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A glass-covered coffin for Padre Pio’s remains

Thousands of faithful and TV crews from around the world take part in the unveiling ceremony. Now a new arrangement makes the ‘people’s saint’ more accessible, said Cardinal Saraiva Martins.

San Giovanni Rotondo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of faithful have flocked to San Giovanni Rotondo, in southern Italy, to view the remains of Padre Pio which are now on display in a glass-covered coffin inside the crypt of the Santa Maria delle grazie Convent where the saint spent most of his life, and where in died in 1968, exactly 50 years after he received his stigmata.

TV crews from around the world followed the Mass celebrated by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, evidence of the great interest the event has created around the world. Visits to the shrine have been booked as far ahead as September 2009.

“In order to come closer, know Padre Pio better—who is now the people’s saint and who will now be even more accessible because of the new arrangement for his body—requires our humility to acknowledge the mystery,” said the cardinal among other things. “Writing on 15 August 1916 to his spiritual advisor and confidant, Padre Agostino, he said about himself: ‘What can I tell you about myself? I am a mystery to myself’.”

The prelate, along with other co-celebrants, was the first to pay tribute to Padre Pio, whose body was dressed in the Franciscan habit. The fingerless gloves that cover part of his hands and the socks his body now wears were found, unused, in the cupboard of his cell. Around his neck a white stole; on his face, a silicon mask.

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