Padre Pio 73-81 (’60-’68)

 

Investigations, restrictions, last years, death.

 

 

In the sixties the very success of Casa Sollievo gave Padre Pio major difficulties. The steady pouring of contributions became a source of contention in the Capuchin Order.

 

The Capuchins had fallen prey of the pyramid scheme financier Giambattista Giuffre’. The so called “God’s Banker’ gave interests from 30% to as high as 90%. The Capuchins, like many others, invested large sums of money with Giuffre’. Padre Pio, who had the ultimate administrative control over the funds, was approached by Capuchin functionaries, and asked to invest. Padre Pio refused. In the summer of 1958 Giuffre’ declared bankruptcy. The Capuchins faced an economic disaster.

 

They approached Padre Pio once again, and he once again refused to give the money donated to “Casa Sollievo’. At that point a plan emerged to take control of the hospital from Padre Pio, accusing him of being a poor administrator, disobedient, and morally unfit.[1]

 

The plan included bugging the convent with tape recorders and microphones, in order to get confidential financial information especially from the administrator of Casa Sollievo Angelo Battisti, and to document inappropriate behavior between Padre Pio and his spiritual daughters. [2]

 

In February 1960, Cardinal Ottaviani, secretary of the Holy Office, sent Padre Bonaventura da Pavullo to investigate some rumors that had reached the Holy Office. His report on April 13, 1960, was negative towards Commendator “Angelo Battisti, administrator of Casa Sollievo”, and also negative towards “three pious women having a damaging influence on Padre Pio.”[3]

 

On March 12, 1960 the Holy Office sent Mons. Mario Crovini “to talk to Padre Pio, and ask if there are any inconveniences going on, and for his suggestion on how to fix them.” Mons. Crovini went privately to San Giovanni Rotondo On April 20, 1960, with the excuse of personal medical tests to be done at Casa Sollievo. He stayed two days. He had long conversations with Padre Pio. The friars had a hostile behavior towards Mons. Crovini.[4]

 

On April 14, 1960 the superior general Padre Clemente da Milwaukee sent a letter to the Pope asking for an Apostolic Visitation to fix “grave problems with the administration of Casa Sollievo”, and also “spiritual questions.”[5]

 

Padre Clemente: “Just like any other individual religious Padre Pio had a vow of poverty. Pope Pius XII did not dispense Padre Pio from the wow in general, But the Pope Pius XII said: “You can do everything with the total income of Casa Sollievo.” Therefore Padre Pio was always under the vow of poverty, and at the same time he could dispose of the hospital funds and goods as he saw fit. The only suspension from the vow of poverty pertained to the hospital Casa Sollievo.”[6]

   The window separates the cloistered area from the visitors area.

On May 11, 1960 the first microphone was installed on the internal window separating the convent from the visitor’s room. The conversation between Padre Pio and his spiritual daughter was recorded. Padre Giustino and fra Masseo, listening to the recording thought to hear “tender expressions” and “a kiss”. The Holy Office was informed, and the tape brought to the Vatican, and the tape was reheard in the Holy Office, and Padre Giustino was summoned to the Holy Office “to better interpret the words pronounced in Neapolitan dialect”.[7] Padre Amedeo da San Giovanni Rotondo who heard the tape with don Terenzi reported: “The voice recorded was so faint that I could catch only few words, and never a complete sentence. And I paid attention but didn’t hear any smacking of a kiss.”[8]

 

The other microphones were placed in Padre Pio’s cell, and also in the confessional.

Thirty six taper were made during a three months period. [9]

Padre Pio discovered himself a microphone under his bed, with the wire passing through the wall of his cell, to the cell of Padre Giustino. He cut the wire with a pocket knife.[10]

When Padre Pio discovered the wires he told his friend Francesco Morcaldi. Morcaldi leaked the story to the press.[11] Padre Pio said to bishop Cesarano: “My own brethren are doing this to me.”[12] Padre Paolino told a friend: “We are terrified by these events. We cannot, however, deny the facts.”[13]

 

The dispute over the handling of the offers to “Casa Sollievo” continued, and there were complaints that the money was not handed over for the purpose designated by the donors.”[14] There were also complaints of dissents among the friars, and ongoing problems of fanatic disciples.[15]

 

Pope John XXIII decided to address the concerns by sending an Apostolic Visitor.

   Padre Giordano Bruno, Dominican friar, questioned at the Holy Office Inquisition in 1660. Found guilty, he was was burned at the stake.

 

On July 30, 1960 Mons. Maccari went to the convent accompanied by don Giovanni Barberini. He gave practical dispositions. He ordered that the reservations for the confessions be handled by a friar; that at confession time, only people with a reservation could stay in the little church; that the two churches be separated by an iron gate; that all the recording gear be removed. The confessions had to last no more than three minutes, or the person will be removed even before the absolution.

Concerning “Casa Sollievo” Mons Maccari appeared a bit biased, alleging “illicit enrichment of some staffers,” without examining the books.[16]

   

Mons. Barberini, the secretary of Mons. Maccari, prohibited the community from helping Padre Pio. He was denied help in going up and down stairs. One day Padre Pio fell going down the narrow staircase which joined the big choir to the small choir. He was left to pick himself up as best as he could.[17]

 

August 10, 1960: 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s ordination to priesthood: sober celebration among many faithful.[18]

 

On November 3, 1960 Mons. Maccari gave his 208 pages written report to the Holy Office. Some pearls; “It is a real business thriving on the ignorance of every social class, exploiting the ingenuous credulity, oscillating between superstition and magic, in an atmosphere of fake supernatural. It is not true that the main person in all this is completely in the dark about this colossal machinery.”[19]

Maccari made some proposals such as removing the fixed time of the Mass, prohibit bishops and priests from serving the Mass, keep a strict discipline for the confessions, gradually substituting all the friars with friars from other provinces.[20]

On December 14, 1960, the Holy Office, fulfilling the recommendations by Mons. Maccari, ordered that Padre Pio could not talk alone to women, that a new provincial be named, and remove and substitute gradually all the friars.[21]

 

 

On February 1, 1961, the Holy Office delegated one of his consultants for a mission “top secret” to directly confront Padre Pio about “the pending against him in the Holy Office. Padre Paolo Philippe talked to Padre Pio on February 22, 1961. Confronted about the accusation of immorality, Padre Pio stated: “It is not true. Absolutely not true. I never kissed a woman. I tell you in front of the Lord that I never wanted to kiss my mother. I made her cry because I did not return her kisses. I thought it was wrong.” Padre Philippe left the same day, and wrote in his report that he had not been able to convince Padre Pio “of his wrong behavior and of the need to change.” He continued: “Padre Pio appeared to me as a man of limited intelligence, very astute and obstinate; a smart peasant who has no will to change. Padre Pio passed inadvertently from minor gesture of affection to graver actions, up to the carnal act. And now, after so many years of a sacrilegious life, maybe he doesn’t realize the gravity of the wrongdoing. This is the story of all the fake mystics who fell to erotism.” He recommended: “Suspension of confessions and Mass, and transfer as soon possible to a faraway convent.”[22] [23]

 

On April 18, 1961 Mons. Cesarano, bishop of Manfredonia, visited Pope John XXIII. The Pope asked about “the women, the recordings, the kisses.” Mos. Cesarano explained, and the Pope replied: “On Padre Pio, they fooled me.”

 

On April 19, 1961 in a meeting of the Holy Office it was decided not to accept the recommendations of Philippe, and to continue with the restrictions of Maccari.[24]

 

In 1961-4 the restrictions imposed by the Holy Office on Padre Pio and the convent continued to be strictly implemented by the superior of the community Padre Rosario da Aliminusa.[25]

 

On January 20, 1962. Because of poor sight the Office is commuted with complete Rosary.

On June 3, 1963 Pope John XXIII died. The friars kept pestering Padre Pio about the Conclave, until he said: “It’s going to be Montini. Now will you be quiet?” On June 23, 1963 Montini was elected Pope Paul VI.[26]

 

In 1959 Card. Montini of Milan gave to Alberto Galletti a message for Padre Pio, asking for particular prayers. Padre Pio told Alberto that he promised fervent prayers, and also told Alberto to inform that he would be elected pope, adding: “Do you understand what you are to tell him? Tell him so because he must get ready.” Card. Montini was taken by surprise, and told Alberto: “Oh! The strange notions of the saints!”[27] [28]

 

On  June 21, 1963 the new pope Paul VI was elected.

Padre Clemente was a consultant of the Holy Office and of the Congregation for Religious. He reported: “Paul VI gave me this order: “Liberate Padre Pio from those restrictions.” Then he said: “You of the Holy Office leave Padre Pio free to confess. Don’t confine him like a criminal.”[29]

 

On January 30, 1964 cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, secretary of the Holy Office, conveyed to Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta, apostolic administrator of the capuchin province of Foggia, the disposition from the new pope Paul VI: “The Holy Father wants that Padre Pio exercises his ministry in full freedom. “Padre Clemente went to San Giovanni Rotondo and removed all the restrictions imposed on Padre Pio by the Holy Office.[30]

 

The condemnations of Padre Pio by the Holy Office have never been revoked.[31]

 

On December 16, 1964, Padre Pio signed a declaration  as requested by the superior, Padre Carmelo da San Giovanni in Galdo: “For quite some time news have been published in the press on my situation, as I was the object of persecution by the ecclesiastical authority. In the presence of God I feel the need and the duty to deplore those news as false, and to declare that I enjoy freedom in my ministry and I don’t have enemies and persecutors. I can publicly affirm that I find in the superiors of my Order, and in the authority of the Church comprehension, comfort, and protection. And I don’t need other defenders besides God and his legitimate representatives.”[32]

 

On February 12, 1965 Cardinal Ottaviani, by disposition of Pope Paul VI, told Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta that “from now on the had to deal with Padre Pio as he was not bound by the wow of obedience.” Thus was totally eliminated any form of restriction.[33]

 

The Ecumenical Council Vatican II opened on October 11, 1962. It was closed on December 8, 1965.During the Council several bishops went to the convent and visited with Padre Pio.

   Padre Pio with Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro

 

On February 17, 1965 Padre Pio got a dispensation to continue to say Mass in Latin.[34]

 

In 1965 Padre Pio was assigned dr. Giuseppe Sala as personal physician.[35]

 

On July 28, 1966 the town celebrated the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s move to San Giovanni Rotondo. A marble sign on the front  side of the church remembers the event. The town also issued a commemorative coin in bronze, silver and gold.[36]

On Sunday January 26, 1967 Padre Pio celebrated the 60th anniversary of the permanent wows. Pope Paul VI, through Cardinal Cicognani congratulated Padre Pio and authorized him to give a special blessing to the faithful.[37]

 Sitting

November 21, 1966: may celebrate sitting in public.[38]

 

From March 1966 through April 1967, by disposition of Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta, Padre Pio was submitted to formal interrogations by Padre Raffaele da Sant’Elia a Pianisi. The six sessions regarded mostly the events of the first invisible wounds in 1910.[39]

 

         On May 9, 1967: Michele Forgione, Padre Pio’s brother dies at age 85.He had been living in San Giovanni Rotondo at the home of his daughter Pia, married to Mario Pennelli.[40]

 

On May 25, 1967, an immense crowd gathered to celebrate Padre Pio’s birthday. There was also the International Convention of the prayer groups. Padre Pio was ill and greeted the crowds from the window with his famous oversized handkerchief.[41]

 

In 1967, last full year of activity, Padre Pio confessed about 25 thousand people. That is an average of seventy people per day, as from the book of reservations.[42]

 

Padre Paolo Covino with the altar boys. Padre Pio is in a wheelchair.           Padre Pio in the wheelchair.

 

  Carlo Campanini 

On March 29, 1968 Padre Pio starts using the wheelchair.[43]

 

April 26, 1968 Mary Pyle dies in Casa Sollievo.[44]

 

May 25, was Padre Pio’s birthday. August 10, was the anniversary of his ordination to priesthood. September 20, 1968 was celebrated the 50th anniversary of (visible) wounds. Again immense crowds gathered to honor Padre Pio. [45]

 

 

On September 12, 1968 in a letter sent by Padre Pio to the Pope Paul VI: "I offer to you my prayers and my daily suffering, so that the Lord comfort you with his grace, to continue defending the eternal truth that never changes with the times change. I thank you for the clear words in the "Humanae Vitae" (The encyclical letter 'Of human life') and confirm my faiths and my unconditional obedience."[46]

 

September 20, 1968 50th anniversary of (visible) wounds.

 

Sunday September 22, 1968 last full day of Padre Pio, started in San Giovanni Rotondo the Fourth International Convention of the Prayer Groups. 

 

Monday September 23, 1968 at 2:00 AM Padre Pio died.

 

 

The last day of Padre Pio

 

Sunday, September 22, 1968 [47] [48] [49]

 

It was the starting day of the First International Convention of Prayer Groups. Many thousands of people gathered in town. Padre Pio sang a High Mass, and the church was full at the usual time of 5:00 AM. The church was full to capacity. Padre Pio was in a wheelchair pushed by Padre Pellegrino and Padre Raffaele.[50]

 

  The last Mass                     

 

Padre Pio was helped at the altar by Padre Onorato da San Giovanni Rotondo as deacon, by Padre Valentino da San Giovanni Rotondo as sub deacon, and by Padre Paolo Covino as master of ceremonies, coordinating the celebrants and the altar boys.[51]

 

Whit the accompanying organ, the ‘scola cantorum’ sung “The Missa Jucunda” of Franco Vittadini. Padre Pio sang appropriately all the parts that he had to. His voice was tired and frail. The faithful had to strain to hear his feeble, quavering voice.

When the Mass was ended, the congregation broke into cheers of “Viva Padre Pio! Auguri Padre Pio!” [52]

 

 No wounds:        

Elia Stelluto did a video recording of last Mass of Padre Pio. He also took several pictures. There were no wounds on Padre Pio during last Mass.[53]

 

As Padre Pio was helped down from the altar, his legs gave way entirely, and he was about to fall to the ground when brother Bill, and Padre Paolo, who were nearby, run to the rescue and hugged him from the back holding him steadily to prevent the fall.

 As he was wheeled into the sacristy he looked around and kept saying feebly: “My children! My children!”[54] [55] [56]

 

Padre Pio made his thanksgiving as usual in the sacristy, and then started into the church to hear the confessions of men. But after about a dozen of confessions he had to be helped back. He was taken to the elevator and returned to his room.[57]

 The vestments have been preserved    

Brother Bill was alone with him, ready to help if needed. He reported that, while there was a great silence in the corridor and the other rooms, Padre Pio suddenly broke and interrupted that silent atmosphere, and “in a loud and unusually strong voice he recited the Our Father”. A little later he received in his room his nephew Ettore Masone, who brought his five years old son, Pio. Padre Pio told his little grandnephew: “You carry my name. I want you to live up to it. Understand?”[58]

 

After an 8:00 a.m. Mass the crypt of the church of St. Mary of Graces was blessed by Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta.[59]

 

Around 10:30 AM Padre Pio appeared at the window of the old choir to bless the crowd. The people were waving handkerchiefs and crying “Viva Padre Pio”.[60]

 

At noon he had lunch of a bit of pasta and spinach in his room.[61]

 

  Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta

At about 11:00 AM , there was the ceremony of laying of the first stone for the monumental Way of the Cross by Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta, Apostolic Administrator.[62]

 

At six Padre Pio asked to be taken to the balcony overlooking the big church, were Mass was celebrated. After Mass he barely had the strength to lift his arm to bless the people. He went back to his room where he waved his handkerchief to an immense crowd who stood with torches and candles in their hands.[63]

   Padre Raffaele da Sant'Elia a Pianisi

He told Padre Raffaele: “I belong more to the other world than to this one. Pray to Our Lord that I might die.” Seeing Padre Pio in terrible pain, Padre Raffaele summoned dr. Bruno Pavoni from the Casa Sollievo asking why he was not given a pain med. “He doesn’t want it” replied dr. Pavone. Padre Raffaele went back to Padre Pio, bended over, and kissed and embraced him.  Padre Pio reached out, embraced him, and returned the kiss. He said: “Thanks for everything.  May the Lord reward you for your love.”[64]

 

 

The last five hours of Padre Pio

The account of Padre Pio’s last hours is best told in the words of Padre Pellegrino, the friar whose turn it was to assist him that night.[65]

   Padre Pelligrino Funicelli

Padre Pellegrino came on duty at 9 PM, relieving Padre Mariano. Padre Pellegrino later gave a audiotaped account of the events of that night. They are reported below.[66]

 Padre Pio was in the cell #5. The friars that helped him used in turn the cell #4. When Padre Pio needed help he used to press the button of a buzzer, and the friar would run to him. Padre Pellegrino testified that that night “he pressed the button about six or seven times between nine and midnight. He continually asked what time it was. He was in bet bud couldn’t sleep. His eyes were red for crying. It was a sweet and serene weeping.”

   Padre Pio sitting in the armchair were he died

“At midnight, like a scared boy he begged me “Stay with me, my son”, and continued to ask the time. And that he said “Boy, did you say Mass?” Padre Pellegrino replied “It is too early to say Mass.” And Padre Pio said: “Well, today you will say Mass for me.”

 

After that Padre Pio asked to confess, and at the end he told Padre Pellegrino: “My son, if the Lord today calls me, ask all the friars on my behalf to forgive me for putting them to great inconvenience; and ask my brother friars and my spiritual children for a prayer for my soul.”

 

Then Padre Pellegrino asked for a blessing for the friars, the spiritual children, and the sick people in the “Casa Sollievo.” Padre Pio: “Yes, I bless all of them; or better still ask the Superior to give himself in my name this last blessing.”

Then Padre Pio renewed his religious profession.

 

Padre Pellegrino: “At 1 o’ clock Padre Pio told me: “Listen, my son, her in bed I’m not breathing well. Let me get up. In the chair I will breathe better.” “He got up and before sitting in the easy chair he said “Let’s go on the terrace,” “To my astonishment he was walking straight and steady like a young fellow, and there was no need for me to hold his arm. After five minutes on the terrace he returned the old heavy man and asked to go back to his cell.”

 

“Back in the cell he became pale, and the forehead was dripping a cold sweat, and the lips started getting blue, and he would say continuously: “Gesu’, Maria. Gesu’, Maria”, with a voice getting more and more feeble. I wanted to call for help, but he said: “Don’t wake up anybody.” I tried to leave him to run for help, and he said again: “Don’t wake up anybody.” I said: “now I have to go.” And I run to call Padre Mariano, and Fra’ Guglielmo, and the other friars, and I called doctor Sala on the phone, and he was in the room in about ten minutes.”

   Dr. Giuseppe Sala

“Dr. Sala gave Padre Pio an injection to improve the cardiac activity. Padre Pio continued to pronounce in a very feeble voice: “Gesu’, Maria. Gesu’, Maria”, while holding the Rosary in his hands. Dr. Sala called on the phone Mario Pennelli, the son in law of Padre Pio, dr. Gusso and dr. Giovanni Scarale. In the meantime I had called the guardian, Padre Mariano, and all the other friars.”

    Padre Paolo Covino

“Padre Paolo Covino da San Giovanni Rotondo administered the absolution “sub conditione”, the last rites, and the apostolic benediction, while all the friars were kneeling in prayer.”

 

At approximately 2:30 AM of September 23, 1968, Padre Pio gently bent the head on his chest. He had passed away, seated in his armchair.[67] [68]

 

In Padre Pio’s room were Padre Carmelo Di Donato da San Giovanni in Galdo, Padre Pellegrino Funicelli, Padre Mariano Paladino, Padre Raffaele D’Addario da Sant’Elia a Pianisi, fra’ Joseph Martin and other friars; dr. Giuseppe Sala, dr. Giuseppe Gusso, and Dr. Giovanni Scarale.[69]

 

               Padre Giacomo da Montemarano took pictures of the wounds. The hands, the feet, the side had no more wounds. The skin was completely normal. There were no signs of scars.[70]

 

 Images of the casket and of the funeral:

                    

   

                                

Padre Pio lives forever in the eternity of God.

 

Pictures of San Giovanni Rotondo in 2013

                                

                                          

 

 

The body of Padre Pio visible in the new San Pio church.

On June 1, 2013, in a ceremony presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the body of Padre Pio has been made permanently visible. The glass urn is located in the same spot where it has been in recent years, in a casket, in the new sanctuary dedicated to Saint Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. The mortal remains  can be seen in the crypt, through a window in the majestic pillar from where  the enormous arches, holding the magnificent church, stem.

               

 

              

 

 

 Bibliography

Campanella, S. (2011). Oboedientia and Pax. La vera storia di una falsa persecuzione. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio.  Cam11

Covino, P. P. (2007). Ricordi e testimonianze. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio.  Cov07

Giannuzzo, E. (2012). San Pio da Pietrelcina. Il travagliato persorso della sua vita terrena. Book sprint edizioni.  Gia12

Ingoldsby, M. (1978). Padre Pio. His Life and Mission. Dublin: Veritas Publications.  Ing78

Morcaldi, Cleonice (1997). LA MIA VITA VICINO A PADRE PIO Diario intimo spirituale. Roma: Edizioni Dehoniane.  Cle97

Multiple Authors. (2009). Padre Pio The wonder worker. New Bedord, MA: Franciscan Friars of Immaculate.  Mul09

Peroni, L. (2002). Padre Pio da Pietrelcina. Borla.  Per02

Pietrelcina, P. P. (2012). Epistolario IV, corrispondenza con diverse categorie di persone. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio.  Epist IV

Rega, F. M. (2005). Padre Pio and America. Rockford: TAN books. Reg05

Ruffin, C. B. (1991). Padre Pio: the true story. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.  Ruf91

Schug, J. O. (1987). A Padre Pio Profile. Petersham, MA: St. Bede's Publications.  Sch87

Winowska, M. (1988). Il vero volto di Padre Pio. Milano: Edizioni San Paolo.  Win88

 

  

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[1] Reg05, 235

[2] Gia12, 366

[3] Gia12, 366

[4] Gia12, 367-70

[5] Gia12, 367-8

[6] Sch87, 108

[7] Gia12, 371

[8] Gia12, 371-4

[9] Ruf91, 353

[10] Gia12, 385-6

[11] Ruf91, 353

[12] Ruf91, 353

[13] Ruf91, 353

[14] Ruf91, 354

[15] Ruf91, 355

[16] Gia12, 382-90

[17] Gal95, 174

[18] Gia12, 383

[19] Gia10, 390-1

[20] Gia10, 391

[21] Gia12,392

[22] Cam11, 177-80

[23] Gia12, 194-5

[24] Gia12, 395-6

[25] Gia12, 400-1

[26] Sch87, 70

[27] Ing78, 95-6

[28] Mul99, 32

[29] Sch87, 107

[30] Gia12, 402

[31] Gia10, 045

[32] Gia12, 408

[33] Gia12, 409

[34] Gia12, 409

[35] Gia12, 409

[36] Gia12, 409-10

[37] Gia12, 409

[38] Gia12, 410

[39] Per02, 554-5

[40] Gia12, 412

[41] Gai12, 412

[42] Gia12, 412

[43] Gia12, 412

[44] Gia12, 412

[45] Gia12, 413

[46] Epist. IV, 12-4

[47] Per02, 569-580

[48] Reg05, 248-260

[49] Ruf91, 373-378

[50] Gia12, 415

[51] Cov07, 200

[52] Gia12, 415

[53] Gia12, 517

[54] Win88, 180

[55] Cle87, 155

[56] Cov07, 200

[57] Gia12, 417

[58] Ruf91, 374-5

[59] Cov07, 200

[60] Ruf91, 375

[61] Ruf91, 375

[62] Cov07, 200

[63] Gia12, 717-8

[64] Ruf91, 375

[65] Ing78, 156-9

[66] Gia12, 418-21

[67] Win88, 181-3

[68] Cov07, 204

[69] Cov07, 204

[70] Sch87, 4

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