6. Medical and ecclesiastical examinations
Summary: Padre Benedetto and Dr. Merla; Drs. Romanelli, Bignami, and Festa; Padre Pietro da Ischitella, Dr. Cardone: Silj, Gasparri, Costa, Kenealy, Cerretti, Poli, Besi, Bastianelli, Valbonesi, Nove. Padre Gemelli.
Padre Benedetto da San Marco in Lamis
On March 3, 1919 Padre Benedetto, provincial minister of the Capuchins, examined Padre Pio’s wounds and sent a letter to Padre Agostino: “They are real wounds, perforating the hands and feet. I have also observed the side wound: it is a real gash that bleeds continuously either blood or serum.”
On April 24, 1919 Padre Benedetto informs the Padre Generale in Rome, explaining what he had seen, and that he had not informed him before, because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The friars had no idea if the wound could be infected or contagious, since Padre Pio had been diagnosed in the past as probably having tuberculosis. And the Spanish fever was still raging or. An answer could come only from doctors.
On May 1, 1919 Dr. Angelo Maria Merla was the first doctor to see Padre Pio after he received the wounds. He was the doctor of the friars, and also the mayor of San Giovanni Rotondo.
Dr. Merla went to the convent by request of Padre Paolino di Tomaso da Casacalenda, the Superior of the Convent. The request was not for a formal examination, but to exclude any possible contagiousness or harm to Padre Pio’s health, given that the Spanish fever was still raging. Besides, there was still a suspect that Padre Pio might have tuberculosis.
Dr. Merla was an atheist and not interested in things outside the natural. He didn’t make a written report. He informed De Fabritiis, the Prefect of Foggia, that in his opinion the lesions were not the result of tuberculosis, but that he could not say with any certainty what caused them, and could not exclude that they might have been artificially inflicted. 
Dr. Luigi Romanelli was the first doctor to perform a formal examination of the wounds, by disposition of Padre Benedetto di San Marco in Lamis, Provincial Superior of the Capuchins in Foggia.
Romanelli was the head surgeon of the civilian hospital in Barletta. Dr. Romanelli visited padre Pio for the first time on May 15 and 16, 1919. He performed four follow up examinations. The last was in July 1920.
Dr. Romanelli wrote a report to Padre Benedetto, and he forwarded it to the Superior General of the Capuchin Order in Rome.
The report starts noting that Padre Pio appears “frail, pale, and malnourished”; and continues:
"The lesions on the palm of both hands, at the level of the 3rd metacarpal bone, and the size of a five cents bronze coin (about 1 ½ inches) for the right hand, and of two cents (about 1 inch) for the left hand, are covered by a red brown elastic membrane, without bleeding, no edema and no inflammation of the surrounding tissues.
The shape is almost circular. The surrounding tissues are intact and normal. The pigmented areas are membranes covering a hole. There is no bone resistance.
The skin in the dorsal area of both hands presents similar features.
I am certain that these wounds are not superficial because, putting my thumb in the palm of the hand, and the index finger on the back, and applying pressure on the membranes, I have the exact perception of a void existing. Those membranes are covering a hole that starts in one side, and ends in the other side. The pressure on the membranes causes intense pain" 
“The wounds on the feet are circular, with a diameter of a five cents coin (about 1 ½ inches), covered with red lucent membranes, with sharp edges and surrounded by normal tissue. They are located in the area of the second metatarsal bone. The palpation of the membrane gives the impression of a void under it. The plantar lesions have the same characteristics. Pressing simultaneously on both membranes appears clear that there is a void, and that the foot is perforated and covered by the membranes”
“In the hands and in the feet all the movements of the joints and of the fingers are normal, and don’t give any inconvenience.”
“On the left side of the chest, in the area of the sixth intercostal space, there is a linear slash wound of about seven centimeters (about three inches), leaking out arterial blood. It is difficult to assess the depth. It is a cut wound”
“In my opinion the wounds are not originated by infection because there is no inflammation. They are not originated by trauma, because it would be absurd that a trauma damages the deep tissues without damaging first the superficial tissue.”
“I know that have been described cases of auto lesions secondary to morbidity of the nervous system, but still they would not be able to produce lesions of the deep tissues without damaging the superficial tissues.”
“I have observed Padre Pio for several months, and the lesions are still the same, and what is more astonishing, they do not produce limitation and malfunction of the articulations, like the normal wound do.”
"The etiology of the lesions of Padre Pio is not natural. The agent producing those lesions needs to be searched, make no mistakes, in the supernatural. The fact in itself it's a phenomenon that cannot be explained with the sole human science."  
July 1919: Dr. Amico Bignami, professor of medical pathology of the University of Rome, an atheist, examined Padre Pio by disposition of Padre Venanzio da Lisle, Superior General, and of Padre Giuseppe da Persiceto, General Procurator of the Capuchin Order.
On July 26, 1919 he gave a written report of his examination.
The report starts stating that Padre Pio “has delicate constitution, a pale complexion, underdeveloped muscles, sickly suffering appearance, and flabby gait.”
And continues: “His attitude, modest and humble, the tall and serene forehead, the expression of his face full of goodness and sincerity, inspire sympathy. However there is nothing particularly attractive in his way of talking.”
“The physical exam shows “normal heart, a bit elevated resting pulse of 90; normal respiration except for some respiratory weakness on the apex of the right lung; liver and spleen are normal. Urinalysis has not been done.”
“He sleeps well and doesn’t dream.”
“Nervous system: diffuse cutaneous hyperesthesia, more relevant in the left side of the chest, and around the heart, and in the palm and back of the hands and feet.”
“There is an evident dermographism in the thoracic area and in the back.”
“Padre Pio reports that he has never suffered of a nervous illness, and never had experienced fainting, convulsions, or tremors.”
“Despite the apparent frailness, he is able to hear confessions fifteen or sixteen hours straight without a bite to eat. He eats very little, mostly vegetables.
On the palm of the right hand there is a thin round blackish scab, detached from the underlying skin, with sharp edges. The surrounding skin in normal, and has a small halo intensely colored by iodine. The area of the scab and the surrounding skin are painfully pressure sensitive. A similar scab is observed on the corresponding site of the back of the hand, at the level of the 3rd and 4th metacarpals. This scab and the surrounding skin are also strongly colored by iodine.
There are similar, perfectly symmetrical lesions on the left hand.
With proper palpation, normal metacarpal bones are felt.
There is evident hyperesthesia of the skin and of the muscles to palpation.
On the dorsal side of the right foot, in correspondence of the 2nd metatarsus, there is a little dark and round very superficial scab, intensely colored with the surrounding skin, with iodine. On the plantar side, there is a little round area, without alteration, strongly tinted with iodine. On the right foot the alterations are identical and perfectly symmetrical; there is hyperesthesia on the dorsal and plantar sides of the feet.
There is no inflammation of the skin surrounding the above described lesions that can be recognized by eye inspection and palpation.
On the left side of the chest, there is a shape of a cross, with the left arm slanting from the fifth to the ninth rib. The short arm is half the size. The skin is dry, similar to superficial abrasions, and intensely colored with iodine. The skin is not infiltrated, is very sensitive to touch and is not bleeding during the examination. The lesion does not deepen in any point, and derma is not damaged. In the whole chest area there is evident superficial hyperesthesia.
“Questioned repeatedly about the origin of the lesions, Padre Pio answers that they formed all al the same time, the past September. It seems that they started with local pain and with the discharge of few drops of blood; then appeared the brown membranes that from time to time detach; and when this happens – Padre Pio reports – under the detached scab there is a similar one, already formed. Sometimes those lesions bleed”
When these lesions formed, Padre Pio did not have any other somatic symptom that would get his attention. However, this information cannot be held as totally accurate, because Padre Pio confesses that he did not pay much attention to the succession of the events, and to their evolution.”
“Asked why he applies iodine, Padre Pio states that he uses it as a disinfectant a couple of times per week or more often; and also states that if he doesn’t apply it, the lesions bleed easily. It turns out that he uses the same iodine since last September, and that makes it old iodine.
Questioned why he puts iodine on a small round area on the plantar side of the foot, were there isn’t any cutaneous lesion, he states that at times that area bleeds, and he applies iodine on it.”
"About the nature of the described lesions it can be asserted that they are a pathological product, on the origin of which, the following hypotheses are possible:
a) They might have been artificially and voluntarily produced;
b) They might be the outcome of a morbid state;
c) They might be in part the outcome of a morbid state, and in part artificial.
I definitely can’t support the first hypothesis, especially lacking a direct proof…. The impression of sincerity that Padre Pio gives me, keeps me definitively from thinking of simulation.
The second hypothesis is, at least partially, reliable. The pathologists know about the “multiple neurotic necrosis of the skin” and the “hemato hydrosis” in the recent book of Cassirer, and in many other works.
The alterations in the hands of Padre Pio are nothing else that the result of a superficial necrosis of the epidermis, and maybe of the more external parts of the derma, and can be classified with the above mentioned neurotic necrosis.
What cannot be explained by what we know about the neurotic necrosis is the perfectly symmetrical localization of the described lesions, and their persistence without noticeable changes, as the patient states.
But these facts, in my opinion, can have a satisfactory explanation with the third above mentioned hypothesis. In fact we can assume that the lesions started as a pathological product (multiple neurotic necrosis of the skin), than, maybe unconsciously and by suggestion, completed in their symmetry and kept artificially by chemical means, such the iodine.
I have already mentioned that on the plantar side of the foot there is no necrobiotic change of the skin, but only a brown pigmentation due to iodine applied to the area corresponding to the extremely superficial lesions.
It is known that old iodine, develops iodhydric acid, and becomes strongly irritant and caustic (and this is not well known lo Ly people, and perhaps not known even by some doctors). It appears logical that applying the same iodine for several months might have made more intensive previous cutaneous alterations, and might have produced others in normal tissues.
This seems to me the more reliable interpretation of the facts I have observed. At any rate it can be stated that there is nothing in the described alterations of the skin that can’t be the product of a morbid state and of the action of known chemical agents.
"The lesions on the hands, feet and side can be explained as unconsciously self-produced by autosuggestion, and kept artificially with repeated applications of tincture of iodine." He also stated: “I do not understand how these wounds have persisted for nearly a year now without getting better or worse.” Bignami also commented: “The expression of Padre Pio’s face is full of goodness and sincerity and leads me to the positive exclusion of a simulation”. 
Bignami was confident that the wounds, left untouched, without using any kind of medication, after eight days would heal.”
He ordered the wounds wrapped in new bandages, and sealed every day for eight days, under supervision of a sworn committee. When the bandages were unsealed and removed eight days later “the wounds remained the
The committee was composed of Padre Paolino da Casacalenda, Padre Basilio da Mirabello Sannitico, and Padre Ludovico da San Marco in Lamis. 
Padre Paolino wrote: “I am particularly grateful to Dr. Bignami. Without his order I would never had a chance to see the wounds. I was particularly impressed by the side wound. It has almost a form of an X. That means that
they are two wounds.”
On October 9 and 10, 1919, Dr. Giorgio Festa, a surgeon in private practice, well known in Rome at the time, examined the wounds by disposition of Padre Venanzio da Lysle, Superior General of the Capuchin Order.
On October 28, 1919, Dr. Festa, back in Rome, wrote a report of his examination, and gave it to the superior general of the Capuchin order.
“In the palm of the left hand there is a circular lesion a little less than 1" in diameter. The lesion has a red brown color and is covered by a blackish crust. The lesion doesn’t seem very deep. The back of the left hand has a lesion similar to the one on the palm. The lesions on the right hand have the same characteristics of the left hand.
The dorsal and plantar sides of the feet have circular lesions similar to the ones on the hands. Applying a light pressure on the lesions elicits a sharp pain. While examining the lesions ooze serum and blood. The skin surrounding the lesions shows no signs of edema, infiltrate, or inflammatory reaction.
Le lesion on the left side of the chest, transversal, about two fingers below the nipple, has the form of a cross, with the long arm measuring about little less than three inches, and the short arm about 1 ½ inches. The lesion is superficial and still emits drops of blood, more than the other lesion.
The lesions appeared all together on September 1918, 13 months ago, and show the same freshness as they had just appeared. In all this months they have not shown any tendency to cicatrization.
My opinion is that they were not originated by a cutting object or by applying chemical substances. The action of chemicals would have influenced also the surrounding tissues, which are normal. Padre Pio has applied iodine every couple of days to limit the loss of blood. However he hasn’t applied any for more than 3 months, by disposition of his superiors, and the lesions present the same characteristics as before.
Padre Pietro da Ischitella
Padre Pietro da Ischitella
About the depth of the lesions, dr. Festa wrote that Padre Pietro da Ischitella, the provincial superior had observed the lesions few months after the event and had clearly the impression that the lesions went through the whole hand. Dr. Festa continued: “I have personally questioned Padre Pietro da Ischitella, and he told me verbatim: ’If a superior authority asks me I can declare and confirm swearing that looking at the wound from the palm side one can easily see through, recognizing a writing or an object positioned on the other side.’ “
Dr. Andrea Cardone
Dr. Andrea Cardone
Dr. Andrea Cardone from Pietrelcina, who was friend and physician of Padre Pio for many years, testified in 1968: “In both hands exist holes a bit larger than half inch, passing through the palm of the hands to the other side; so that one could see light passing through. And with pressure the fingertips of my thumb and pointer touched each other.”
In July 1920 the professors Giorgio Festa and Luigi Romanelli did follow up examinations of the wounds. They did not perceive any interruption in the bones of the hands and of the feet.
Reported by Dr. Festa: A colleague of mine asked Padre Pio : "Why the lesions are here and not in other parts of the body?" Answer: "You are a doctor. You should tell me why they should have been in other parts of the body and not here."   The colleague of dr. Festa was dr. Bignami. 
Dr. Alberto Caserta of Foggia did x-rays of the hands of Padre Pio on October 13, 1954. The radiographs did not show interruptions in the bones.
In 1954 Padre Pio had not been feeling well, with respiratory problems. Prof. Francesco Lotti testified: “On October 13, 1954, with the superior of the convent Padre Carmelo da Sessano, we took Padre Pio to the radiology department of Casa Sollievo to have an x-ray of the head and chest done. By disposition of Padre Carmelo, and without Padre Pio knowing it, we did also radiographs of hands and feet. I was told by the radiologist that there was absolutely nothing abnormal at the level of the metacarpal and metatarsal areas.” (Gerardo, Le Stigmate 1985, 300-3) (Ger85, Appendice fotografica, 17-21)
Padre Gerardo greeting Padre Pio, and one of his books about the stigmatization of Padre Pio
Regarding the chest wound, Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri has collected 14 descriptions of the direct observations of the examining physicians and of the friars in contact with Padre Pio. They vary from a linear wound to one X shaped.
Intigrillo: “The lesion on Padre Pio’s side will always be the subject of discussion, with regard to both shape and exact position.”
In 1919-1921,Cardinal Augusto Silj, Prefect of Apostolic Signature, the Supreme Tribunal of the Holy See, visited with Padre Pio several times, each time expressing a very positive opinion to Pope Benedict XV.
On October 24, 1921, Padre Pio made this drawing of the side wound on a business card of Cardinal Silj.
Cardinal Pietro Gasparri
On November 19, 1919, the Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Secretary of State, wrote to the superior of the Capuchins, to recommend the Rosi family, who wanted to confess and receive the Communion from Padre Pio, and also to ask him to prey for the Pope’s intentions and for his own. He also asked for some little object from Padre Pio for his niece Antonia Veda.  
Mons. Alberto Costa
In 1919, Mons. Alberto Costa, bishop of Melfi and Rapolla after visiting with Padre Pio he wrote: “I am convinced of the holiness of Padre Pio. His life is totally consecrated to the glorification of God and the conversion of the sinners. My impression can be boiled down to one: to that of having talked to a saint.” 
On March 24-27, 1920, Archbishop Anselm Edward Kenealy, of Simla, India, who was himself a Capuchin and a prelate, examined Padre Pio by request of Pope Benedict XV. Mons. Kenealy was known to be skeptical regarding mystical phenomena. He spent five hours with Padre Pio.
He reported: “I wanted to see the wounds of Padre Pio because I am resistant to believe in things if I have not seen them with my own eyes. I went, I saw, I was conquered (Veni, Vidi, Victus sum). I am deeply convinced that we have a true saint here. The Lord, with the five wounds of the Passion has given him great gifts, and he is completely at ease. If he knows how to suffer, he also knows how to laugh.”   
Mons. Benaventura Cerretti
On May 20, 1920, not completely satisfied, the pope sent archbishop Bonaventura Cerretti, secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, who’s Prefect was Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, to examine Padre Pio. He reached the convent on May 24. Padre Onorato wrote that Cerretti came dressed as a simple priest, showed the letter of the Holy Office and his episcopal cross, and asked to examine Padre Pio. He was deeply impressed, wrote in the guest book an expression of admiration, asked the prayers of Padre Pio, and gave the Pope a very positive evaluation. 
Mons. Angelo Poli
Mons. Angelo Poli (or Police), apostolic vicar of Allahabad, India, visited Padre Pio in October 1920. He wrote on November 2, 1920: “I came, I saw, and I was conquered. Not the slightest doubt remains in me: the finger of God is here (Digitus Dei hic est). Seeing Padre Pio one feels overwhelmed by the presence of supernatural, and at the same time, his natural simple attitude inspires confidence.”  
On February 17, 1921, Padre Pio expressed in a letter to Mons. Poli his desire to become a missionary: “… I have made persistent pressure on my director to let me be one of your missionaries, but he finds that I am unfit for it.”
On July 12, 1920, Padre Luigi Besi, General Postulator of the Passionists, made an apostolic visitation by disposition of Pope Benedict XV. He went unannounced. When he reached Foggia by train, he was greeted by a Capuchin friar who told him: “Padre Pio has asked for a friar to go to Foggia and pick up a Passionist who had been sent by the Pope. I am here to accompany you to the convent.” 
Besi was impressed. He wrote that Padre Pio “was privileged by God, as was St. but even more so.” (Gemma Galgani was Passionist mystic nun who had died about twenty years before). 
On July 20, 1920 prof. Giuseppe Bastianelli, the physician of pope Benedict XV was sent personally by him to examine the wounds of Padre Pio. He visited with Padre Pio on July 22 and examined the wounds. He gave a favorable report on the supernaturalism of the case. 
In 1920, Mons. Alberto Valbonesi, titular bishop of Memphis, Egypt, a Vatican employee, visited Padre Pio and was very favorably impressed. He said that the interview with Padre Pio had ‘compensated me for years of pain.”
Padre Roberto da Nove
On September 7, 1920, Padre Roberto da Nove di Bassano wrote that he had been to San Giovanni Rotondo with a skeptical and indifferent attitude, but after visiting with Padre Pio and closely observing his daily routine he had been conquered by his serenity and simplicity, and had dropped all his preventions against him.
Padre Agostino Gemelli
The afternoon of Sunday April 18, 1920, Padre Agostino Gemelli went to the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo.
He was accompanied by Armida Barelli, Padre Benedetto, two priests and the preacher of the Dioceses of Foggia.
First thing, he wrote in the Book of Visitors: “Every day we ascertain thet the Franciscan tree produces new fruits and this
is the greatest comfort for whoever gets food and life from this marvelous tree. Fra’ Agostino Gemelli, April 18, 1920.
Three or four minutes
“Padre Gemelli came late at night, unexpected, and I accompanied him to
a cell for the night. He didn’t see Padre Pio. Gia12, 188
Report to the Holy Office
The evening of April 19, 1920, the same day he had
left the convent, Padre Gemelli wrote a report to Mons. Carlo Perosi,
member of the Holy Office. Gia12, 185
The complete report of Padre Gemelli is reported in Gerardo di Flumeri, Il Beato Padre Pio da Pietrelcina, San Giovanni Rotondo 2001, pp. 421-4
“I have approached Padre Pio, without any intention of studying him, and without doing any medical examination….
“However, given the nature of my studies, I could ascertain some facts…
“Based on the existence of these facts, I think that the intervention of the ecclesiastical authority would be very appropriate…
“I have been among the ones that have demonstrated that medicine has nothing to say in the field of the mystical phenomena.
“Only psychological methods can distinguish the true from the false cases of mysticism…
“Padre Pio is a man of elevated religious life. He is an exemplay man…
“After introducing myself, I engaged him in a conversation that, without him realizing it, was a psychiatric interrogation...
“Padre Pio doesn’t show the signs of the mental illnesses that have a religious content. But Padre Pio doesn’t show either any of the characteristic elements of a mystical life.
“He seems a man with a restrict field of conscience, lowered psychical tension, monotonous ideation, abulia...
“The abovementioned Padre has on the palm and on the back of his hands some round sores with scabs and bleeding.
“I know that he has similar sores on his feet, and one, in the form of an upside down cross on the left side of the chest.
“In the whole it seems to me a case of suggestion unconsciously produced by Padre Benedetto Nardella, in a sick subject like Padre Pio is.
“This has produced the characteristic manifestations of psittacism, proper of the structure of hysteria.
“This is only an impression and interpretation
that requires the proof of rigorous and accurate examinations.
Psittacism in Webster dictionary: “Automatic speech without thought of the meaning of the words spoken.” Like a parrot speaking human words without any knowledge or their meaning. (Wikipedia).
Gemelli wrote on “Vita e Pensiero” in 1924:
“Psittacism means that the sick person produces the sores with artificial means. The proof is in the fact that they are sores,
more or less deep, but never beyond the subcutaneous tissue. Periodically they deepen more, and bleed. Many of the
presumed cases of stigmatization are vulgar cases of hysteria, where psittacism shows with the imitation of the wounds of
Gemelli continues in the report to Mons. Perosi: “I suggest removing for
some time Padre Pio from the artificial environment where he is, and
submit him to a rigorous scientific examination. Gia12, 186
“I insist on the need to apply the very latest methods of experimental psychology, because they only give us a secure
method to distinguish the true mystical fact from
others that are of psychopathic nature.” Gia12, 186
Second report to the Holy Office
After reading the report, the Holy Office asked Padre Gemelli what measures he suggested.
He sent a second report on July 2, 1920.
Giovanni Rotondo 2001, pp. 426-7
He recommended to:
“Given the impossibility of removing Padre Pio from his environment, institute a committee of experts consisting of a theologian, a psychologist and a medical doctor.
Examine Padre Pio’s cell, with all the stuff that he has, and the stuff that he receives from outside. Remove access to medications.
Put a cast on an upper limb and a lower limb, to give time to produce cicatrization. Do a microscopic examination of the coloring substance dashing the palm of the hand.
Control rigorously food intake and vomiting. Determine the origin of the perfume. Do an accurate neurological exam.”
Dr. Festa’s reaction
Dr. Giorgio Festa reacted to statements by Padre Gemelli writing on April 7, 1925, a 72 pages relation to the Holy Office,
to demonstrate “the wrongfulness of the
assumptions of Padre Gemelli.” Gia12, 193
“Padre Gemelli sentenced “a priory” without knowing anything about Padre Pio’s wounds, and without any most
elementary psychological research…. Ger95, 237
“When I presented him the real situation Padre Gemelli appeared impressed and moved, and asked for another meeting
“However after several months this meeting has never happened and he keeps sentencing without having examined and
studied…. Ger95, 238
“He puts over the garments of a priest, the more
pompous clothes of a medical doctor and scientist. … Ger95,
Gemelli’s third relation