7. Inquisition by the Holy Office, and isolation


Summary: The crowds, resentment in the clergy, newspapers. Lemius, Rossi. Disposition, demonstration, hernia operation, deliberation. Epistolary. Transfer aborted, “imprisonment”, restrictions. (1919-39)



The crowds

By the summer of 1919 the scene was one of pandemonium. The little church was invaded by peasants, artist, writers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, journalists, curious, fanatics, thieves, pickpockets, sick wanted to be cured, possessed wanting to be freed.[1]

Padre Pio's habit, with cuts at the bottom

The convent was not spared. People cut pieces from cassocks, chasubles, albs, and anything that presumably had been used by Padre Pio, such as straws from chairs were he had been seated. Whenever Padre Pio appeared in public they cut pieces of his clothing.[2]


In April 1919 Padre Pio complained to Padre Benedetto that his breviary had been stolen.[3] [4]


People stayed around the convent for days, and since there were no hotels or private homes outside the town a mile away, they slept under the stars, ate what they could, and drunk well water.[5] There was no sanitation and many were sick.[6]


A prayer card with a picture taken on June 24, 1919


A prayer card stating that the picture was taken on June 27, 1919, and calling Padre Pio "The Holy Priest".


The Capuchin friars deplored what was happening, including the publicity by the press, forbidden by Canon Law.[7]



In the town of San Giovanni Rotondo things had changed dramatically since the news about Padre Pio spread. One of the changes was that many faithful started deserting the local parish and went to the convent for religious services. This emptied the churches in town and made some of the local clergy resentful.

Don Giovanni Miscio, don Giuseppe Prencipe and don Domenico Palladino accused the friars  of “putting Padre Pio on display for the purpose of making money”.


Mons. Gagliardi

The Bishop of Manfredonia, Mons. Pasquale Gagliardi, with jurisdiction over San Giovanni Rotondo, got informed, noticed, and joined the action against the convent.

They “bombarded the Vatican with complaints about Padre Pio.” Gagliardi went to the Vatican deploring Padre Pio’s horrible manner of hearing confessions” leaving the souls “in a state of agitation”. He insisted: “Padre Pio is demon-possessed and the friars of San Giovanni Rotondo are a band of thieves.” He added: “With my own eye I saw Padre Pio perfume himself and put makeup on his face! All this I swear on my pectoral cross.” He also state that Padre Pio habitually slept  in the friary’s guest room attended by young girls with whom he took liberties. Gagliardi also charged that the friars were living in “unspeakable luxury, and were raking in huge sums of money.[8]



Rumor of transfer

In September 1919 a rumor spread that Padre Pio was going to be transferred. The citizen made massive public demonstrations and stayed around to guard the monastery day and night.[9] [10]



October 14, 1920

 In the local election of October 3, 1920, the socialist party obtained 1069 votes, while the “Blocco d’Ordine” had 850 votes. The Blocco included several small groups, with land owners, veterans of WWI, “arditi neri”, liberals, and moderates.

Since the day of the socialist victory, there was strong animosity between the two groups. On the afternoon of October 14, the inauguration of the new socialist major Luigi Tamburrano was planned, and clashes among the factions were anticipated.

The socialists reportedly wanted to substitute the “Tricolore” with the “Red Flag” on the balcony of city hall.  In the square there were about 600 socialists, 100 of the other party, 50 Carabinieri, 80 Army soldiers. In the escalating tension, a civilian grabbed a rifle from a soldier, and shot the carabiniere Vito Imbriani.

A chaotic clash ensued with knives, sticks, farming tools, and firearms. The carabinieri and the soldiers fired on the crowd. Besides the carabiniere, 13 civilians died. There were also 30 people wounded.

The town got national attention. Padre Pio tried to promote pacification between the parties, telling Francesco

Morcaldi: “Approach the leaders, calm them down. You have to pacify them.
[11] [12]



Another rumor of transfer

On June 21, 1921 a visiting priest was suspected by the people as the one assigned to prepare for the transfer of Padre Pio, and they stormed the monastery.[13] [14]



In the newspapers


The Napoli newspaper "Il Mattino" reporting about Padre Pio


For several months the stigmatization of Padre Pio was known only to few people.

Than he news spread, and pilgrims and curious arrived at the convent, from Southern Italy, then from the whole Italy and from abroad. [15]


On May 9, 1919 the “Il Giornale d’Italia” was the first newspaper to report about Padre Pio.


On June 1, 1919 “Il Tempo” run a title “Il miracolo di un Santo” describing he instantaneous healing of a soldier by Padre Pio. The article had been written by Adelchi Fabbrocini. On June 3, 1919 the same paper “Il Tempo” titles “I miracoli di Padre Pio a San Giovanni Rotondo”, reports some prodigies attributed to the friar. The paper also reports that “at times his body reaches temperatures of 50 C (F 122) as it has been observed with bath thermometers).”[16]


On June 19, 1920 the “Daily Mail” reports “extraordinary events happening daily in San Giovanni Rotondo”, and describes how the wounds had been investigated by the doctors and prelates.“


On June 20 and 21, 1919, the journalist, Renato Trevisani, on the Napoli’s newspaper “Il Mattino”, in full page describes that “Padre Pio, ‘The Saint’ of San Giovanni Rotondo, makes a miracle on the person of the town’s chancellor.”[17] [18] [19]



On October 27, 1923 the Belgian newspaper “Le Soir” describes the wounds, the examinations, the prodigies and the “very high fevers of 48-50C “(118-122 F).



The palace of the Holy Office in Vatican


Meanwhile the Vatican office of Inquisition, called at the time The Holy Office, received very contradictory information regarding what was going on in San Giovanni Rotondo, about the nature of the wounds, the presumed holiness of the stigmatized, and the behavior of the friars. The Holy Office was forced to take a stand and initiated an exhaustive formal investigation.[20] [21] [22]


Padre Lemius

In 1920 the theologian Joseph Lemius of the Oblates or Mary Immaculate was entrusted directly by the secretary of the Holy Office, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.[23] Lemius was asked a very precise question: “That measures, if any, should be adopted by the Holy Office regarding Padre Pio da Pietrelcina.[24]



Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, now Servant of God


From the fall of 1920 to January 1921 he read the documentation available. In a meeting at the Holy Office on January 21, 1921 he stated that without direct examination on site nothing could be said for sure about the origin of the stigmata.

Fr. Lemius suggested to send an Apostolic Visitor to be sent as a Qualificator, to do a thorough investigation about Padre Pio’s moral, ascetic and mystical character, focusing on humility and obedience, his way of dealing with women, use of pharmaceutical products such as the carbolic acid he requested in connection with the injections administered to the novices during the epidemic of the Spanish fever.[25] [26]



Bishop Rossi

Padre Raffaello Carlo Rossi of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites


On April 26, 1921 the choice of the Holy Office fell on Msgr. Raffaello Carlo Rossi, bishop of Volterra. He would have to answer the question on who really is Padre Pio. He declined at first, than accepted the task. Mons. Rossi first went to the Holy Office in Vatican were he examined Padre Pio’s file, full of praise and criticism, then he went to San Giovanni Rotondo on June 14, 1921.[27]


The bishop of Volterra Raffaello Carlo Rossi, future cardinal, went to the convent on June 14, 1921, and left after eight days. Padre Pio was 34 years old.

Mons. Rossi had formal interviews with two priests of the local parish: archpriest Canon Mons. Dr. Giuseppe Prencipe and bursar canon Domenico Palladino.

He also interviewed the friar padres Lorenzo, Luigi, Romolo, Lodovico, Pietro, and Cherubino. Last, he had formal interview and examination of the wounds of Padre Pio.[28]


From Mons. Rossi’s written report: “Padre Pio is a good religious, exemplary, accomplished in the practice of the virtues.”[29] "In conversation, Padre Pio is very pleasant; with his brothers, he is serene, jovial, and even humorous."[30]

 "The religious Community in which Padre Pio lives is a good Community and one that can be trusted."[31] 

"The very intense and pleasant fragrance, similar to the scent of the violet, I have smelled it."[32]  "I have examined the monk's cell and could find nothing that would cause such a scent. There was only plain soap."[33] “He has attested in a sworn statement to never using, and never having used, perfumes.”[34]


Padre Pio told Mons. Rossi under oath: "On September 20, 1918 I saw the Lord in the posture of being on a cross, lamenting the ingratitude of men, especially those consecrated to him.  He urged me to partake of his sorrows, and to work for my brothers’ salvation. I asked him what I could do. I heard this voice: 'I unite you with my Passion.' Once the vision disappeared, I came to my senses, and I saw these signs here, which were dripping blood. I didn't have anything before."[35]


Mons Rossi: "The stigmata are there: We are before a real fact that it is impossible to deny."[36]


"I am fully in favor of their authenticity, and, in fact, of their Divine origin."


"The future will reveal what today cannot be read in the life of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina."


The report, called “Votum on Padre Pio da Pietrelcina” was completed on October 4, 1921 and given to the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office.[37]


“On the wounds I used iodine every once in a while, but a doctor told me that it could irritate them even more. They had me to use petrolatum jelly when the wounds would lose their scabs. It may be over two years that I have used nothing at all.”[38]


Padre Pio to Mons. Rossi: “The wounds don’t always keep the same appearance. At times they are more noticeable, at times less so. Sometimes they look like they are about to disappear, but they didn’t, and then come back, flourishing again.”[39]


Mons. Rossi: “Do you swear on the Holy Gospel that you have not, directly or indirectly, produced, nurtured, cultivated, preserved the signs?” Padre Pio: “I swear! Quite the contrary! I would be very grateful if the Lord relieved me of them!”


Mons. Raffaello Carlo Rossi, born in Pisa, Italy, was a religious of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites. He served several Popes in many assignments in the Roman Congregations, including the Holy Office. He was elected bishop of Volterra and later Cardinal. Mons. Rossi saw Padre Pio’s holiness well before many others who would follow him. He was the first to verify on behalf of the Holy Office, the theological nature of the stigmata.[40] He too, like Padre Pio, had an intense saintly life. Currently he is Servant of God, and the process of sainthood is well under way.



"Dispositio" by the Holy Office

The Holy Office in an old print

On June 2, 1922 the Holy Office sent a letter signed by Cardinal Merry del Val to Padre Giuseppe Antonio, minister general of the Capuchin Order.


Cardinal Merry Del Val


Padre Giuseppe Antonio, minister general of the Capuchin Order


The letter included the following dispositions:

“Avoid any oddity and commotion” in the convent and through the people;

Padre Pio is “prohibited to impart benedictions on the people”;

He is prohibited to “show the so-called stigmata”;

Any communication, even by way of letter” between Padre Pio and  Padre Benedetto has to stop immediately;

“Prepare to transfer Padre Pio” whenever the popular mood will make it possible;

Padre Benedetto has “to turn over the Chronicle (“Cronistoria”) of the friary written by him and he has to stop to talk and write about Padre Pio.”[41]



Gagliardi in papal audience

On July 3, 1922 Mons. Gagliardi had an official audience with the Pope.





The Epistolary is the collection of the letters written by Padre Pio or addressed to him by his spiritual directors, spiritual children, other friars, and ecclesiastical authorities. It also includes his spiritual will, and other writings by him.

Padre Alessandro da Ripabottoni with Padre Pio


Padre Gerardo di Flumeri greeting Padre Pio


The letters have been collected in four volumes and edited by the capuchin friars Melchiorre da Pobladura, Alessando da Ripobottoni, and Gerardo Di Flumeri. Currently in Italian the fourth edition of 2000, has been reprinted in 2011-2012, with revisions and correction. There is also an English edition.


Vol. I  The first volume includes the correspondence with Padre Pio's spiritual directors between 1910 and 1922. 4th Italian Edition 2011

Padre Pio wrote 111 letters to Padre Benedetto and 151 to Padre Agostino.

He received 66 letters from Padre Benedetto and 179 from Padre Agostino


Vol. II  The second volume includes the correspondence with noblewoman Raffaelina Cerase (1914-1915), 3rd Italian edition, 2011

 97 letters in all, 56 from Padre Pio to Raffaelina, and 41 from Raffaelina to Padre Pio


Vol. III Correspondence with spiritual daughters (1915-1923) 4th edition, 2012

21 letters to Annita Rodote. 15 letters to Margherita Tresca, and 12 letters from Margherita Tresca. 67 letters to Maria Gargani, 35 to Assunta Di Tomaso, 6 to Lucia Fiorentino, 19 to Rachelina Russo, 43 to the Ventrella sisters Vittorina, Elena Maria, and Filomena. 69 letters to Erminia Gargani, 45 letters to Antonietta Vona, 31 to the Campanile sisters Lucia, Maria, and Rachelina. 4 letters to Girolama Longo, 10 to Frieda Folger, 22 to Elena Bandini, 3 to Violante Masone, 2 letters to Graziella Pannullo.


Vol IV Correspondence with several people. 3rd Italian edition, 2012. The volume includes letters to ecclesiastical authorities, fellow Capuchin friars, diocesan priests, friends, and spiritual sons. Letters to three families: Bavassano-Devoto, Marchesani-Leontina, Melchioni-Lagorio. Letters to his own parents and relatives.  Spiritual will of Padre Pio. Writings by Padre Pio.


Padre Pio stopped any correspondence according to the above mentioned disposition from the Holy Office.


Padre Celestino da Desio


Padre Celestino da Desio became in 1924 Mons. Celestino Cattaneo, Apostolic Vicar in Eritrea


On July 22, 1922, the superior general of the capuchin order sent his own visitor: Padre Celestino da Desio stayed six days in the friary. He questioned, listened, observed, not only the friars, but also the people and the civilian authority. He reported that he was firmly convinced that the denunciations were calumny intended to force the faithful to return to frequent the parish in town.[42]




The months between August 1922 and May 1923 passed in a relative calm for Padre Pio and the convent.[43]




“Onomastico” 1923

On May 5, 1923 the name day of Padre Pio was celebrated with a large crowd of faithful. He also received many letters, card, and telegrams.[44]



Padre Pietro

Padre Pietro da Ischitella

On May 8, 1923 Padre Pietro da Ischitella, provincial superior, was summoned to the Holy Office. He was formally questioned by Padre Giovanni Lottini if the dispositions given by the Holy Office had been implemented.

Padre Pietro answered that he had not solicited Padre Pio to request his  transfer “as soon as possible” to another convent, and that he had somehow restricted Padre Pio’s access to the letters addressed to him.

The Holy Office concluded that the dispositions had not been implemented.[45]


Reprimand by the Holy Office

The Holy Office (Inquisition) in an old print

On May 16, 1923 the Holy Office sent a new disposition to the superior general of the Capuchin order Padre Giuseppantonio Bussolari da Persiceto: “Padre Pietro da Ischitella (Provincial of the Capuchins) has to be gravely reprimanded (for not implementing Padre Pio’s transfer).


Padre Giuseppantonio da San Marco in Lamis

Padre Lodovico da San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Ruggero da Campobasso, and Padre Giuseppantonio da San Marco in Lamis have to be immediately removed from the convent in San Giovanni Rotondo.

The order is confirmed for Padre Pio not to celebrate Mass in public, but in the private chapel of the friary, and nobody is allowed to participate.”[46] [47]


"Declaratio" by the Holy Office

On May 31, 1923 a declaration from the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office is emanated, and published in Latin, in the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”, the official Vatican bulletin:  


“The Supreme Holy Congregation of the Holy Office, held an inquiry on the phenomena attributed to Padre Pio and declares that it cannot confirm from the inquiry the supernatural character of these phenomena and exhorts the faithful to conform their practices to this deliberation.” [48] [49] [50] [51]



“L’Osservatore Romano”

The declaration of the Holy Office was published on the “Osservatore Romano”, the Vatican’s daily Paper on July 5, 1923.[52]


The Holy Office hoped that this statement would thin the immense crowds, but had the opposite effect.[53]



Mass alone; and no letters.

Padre Ignazio da Jelsi

On June 16, 1923 Padre Ignazio da Ielsi, Superior of the convent , received ‘brief and sharp’ orders confirming the he can celebrate Mass only by himself, and also he cannot replay, directly or through other to the letters addressed to him.[54]


 Massive demonstration


Padre Pio protected by a carabiniere

On June 25, 1923 a crowd was waiting for Padre Pio to say Mass. They waited in vain. A massive demonstration ensued by most of the population of San Giovanni Rotondo. The friars were astounded looking at the sea of torches stretched down the road. The mayor Morcaldi was heading the crowd. The people were protesting a possible Padre Pio’s removal from San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Ignazio telegraphed to Padre Pietro: “Today I carried out the order not to let Padre Pio celebrate Mass in public. Now an impressive public demonstration has made impossible to comply. I am forced to suspend the measure again.” [55] [56]


Morcaldi, Brunatto, and Orlando

  Francesco Morcaldi        Emanuele Brunatto    Don Giuseppe Orlando


Morcaldi, Brunatto and Orlando went to Rome to try prevent the transfer.

Brunatto told Gemelli that he was an eye witness that Gemelli had not examined Padre Pio. Gemelli replied that he could have him destroyed! [57]

Morcaldi told Cardinal Donato Sbarretti that if they tried to remove Padre Pio, they “will have to trample on our dead bodies.”


Don Giuseppe Orlando met Don Alessandro Lottini at the Holy Office. He returned to Padre Pio and told him: “They are accusing you of all sorts of things, including that you are disobedient to the orders of your superiors who have imposed upon you the obedience to leave this place.” Padre Pio fell on one knee, opened his arms, and declared: “Peppino, I swear to you on this crucifix that I never received such an order. If my superiors ordered me to jump out of the window, I would jump.” [58]


Carmelo Camilleri

In the meantime, the townspeople were maintaining a round-the-clock guard at the friary. Dr. Carmelo Camilleri was sent from Rome to explore the possibility of moving Padre Pio. He concluded that Padre Pio could be taken away only by force “with the certainty of an effusion of blood.” This became evident few days later.[59] [60]


Order of transfer


Padre Luigi D'Avellino    

On July 30, 1923 Padre Luigi D’Avellino, by order of the superior general Giuseppe Antonio da Persiceto went to Padre Pio notifying him the he would be transferred to another convent.”[61] Padre Pio said: “I am ready to do the will of my superiors. If at all possible I’d like to go to Montefusco.”[62]


Donato Centra


On August 10, 1923 during vespers Padre Pio was about to bless the faithful with the monstrance when a man, identified as Donato Centra, a bricklayer, lunged forward, and brandishing a revolver, leveled it at Padre Pio’s head. He shouted: “Either dead or alive, you are going to stay with us in this town.” The bystanders wrestled him to the ground before he could squeeze the trigger.[63] [64] [65]




On August 4, 1923 Padre Cherubino da Castelnuovo of the Ancona convent, notified padre Pietro da Monteroberto, superior of the nearby convent in Cingoli, that Padre Pio would be transferred to that convent.[66]  Hearing that the removal of Padre Pio had to be done in secret, Padre Cherubino suggested to hide Padre Pio in a large barrel placed on a wagon. Padre Ignazio da Ielsi reported the episode and commented that they didn’t know the people of San Giovanni Rotondo.[67]



Suspension of transfer

On August 17, 1923 a telegram arrived from the Holy Office to the convent, stating that the transfer order was suspended until further notice.[68] [69]




On October 2, 1923 Mary Pyle met Padre Pio.


Padre Pietro da Ischitella


On February 23, 1924 Padre Pietro da Ischitella dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of forty four.[70]




Padre Bernardo D'Alpicella

On April 14, 1924 the provincial Padre Luigi D’Avellino is removed and substituted with Padre Bernardo D’Alpicella.[71]


"Monitum" of the Holy Office on July 24, 1924 


 On July 24, 1924 the Holy Office reiterates that, about the facts attributed to Padre Pio,

after a proper investigation nothing has emerged in favor of their supernaturalism.

It orders "with heavier words" to abstain from visiting and to avoid any contact, including  by letter, with him.


Padre Celestino


Padre Celestino became later bishop Celestino Cattaneo.

On April 18, 1924 Padre Celestino da Desio was at the convent again, sent by the superior general. He asked the superior of the convent ,Padre Ignazio, if it was true that there had been a fistfight among the friars to appropriate the offers sent to Padre Pio. Padre Ignazio was appalled at this absurd accusation and said that he could imagine who was spreading a similar calumny.[72]


Ospedale San Francesco


Meanwhile, in January 1925 the St. Francis hospital was opened downtown San Giovanni Rotndo.



Padre Bernardo

Padre Bernardo D'Alpicella

On April 22, 1925, at the request of the Holy Office, the provincial superior  Padre Bernardo d’Alpicella ordered:

visitors are no longer permitted to talk to Padre Pio in the sacristy, corridor, or guest room.

Padre Pio is prohibited to speak to any lay person after Mass, and his hand has not to be kissed.

No layman can reside in the friary (Emanuele Brunatto went to Pietrelcina).

The superior of the convent was Padre Ignazio da Ielsi, who wrote in his diary: “Padre Pio never went again in any of the abovementioned places, unless he was sent by me.”[73]


Hernia operation

Meanwhile Padre Pio had a hernia operation on October 5, 1925.

 Towards the end of September 1925 Dr. Giorgio Festa went to San Giovanni Rotondo for a friendly visit with Padre Pio. Padre Pio took the courage to tell him that for two years he had been suffering “atrocious and intense pain in the inguinal area, especially when climbing steps, such as when ascending the altar for Mass. Please help me, examine the area, and suggest some remedy that will allow me to continue my duties. “ Dr. Festa’s exam diagnosed a large and irreducible right inguinal hernia. He suggested surgery as soon as possible.

Dr. Giorgio Festa did the surgery

Padre Fortunato da Serracapriola was the head and only nurse

Obtained the approval of Padre Pio and of the superior, Padre Ignazio da Ielsi, He sent a friend to Rome, to get the appropriate surgical instruments, and decided to operate on October 5, 1925. Dr. Angelo Merla was the assistant, and Padre Fortunato da Serracapriola was the nurse. The “operating room” was a cell near the one of Padre Pio. Padre Pio refused chloroform and Dr. Festa did a local anesthesia. The surgery lasted one hour and forty five minutes, and was successful. Padre Pio lost consciousness several times, and dr. Festa couldn’t help himself from glimpsing at the wounds “that I had studied five years before. They had the same features that I had described in my first relation”. (Allegri 2000, 236-7)


Some things of the surgery have been preserved:





In December 1925 canon Giovanni Miscio tried to blackmail Padre Pio’s brother Michele. He was found guilty and received a suspended sentence at the insistence of Padre Pio.[74]



“COMUNICATO” April 23, 1926


On April 23, 1926 the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis” issued a notice that the booklet with preface by Giuseppe De Rossi (pseudonymous of Emanuele Brunatto), by the title “Padre Pio da Pietralcina” was considered a prohibited book. [75]


The booklet by Giuseppe De Rossi alias of Emanuele Brunatto



In the same “COMUNICATO” there was a reminder to the faithful that “was they duty to avoid visiting Padre Pio, or having with him even a simple correspondence in writing.”



Giuseppe Cavaciocchi 


 The Holy Office, on July 11, 1926 put on the "Index" the book by Giuseppe Cavaciocchi

"Padre Pio da Pietrelcina. Il fascino e le fama mondiale di un umile e grande francescano".

  The book by Giuseppe Cavaciocchi 


A stronger reminder


The Holy Office took the opportunity to remind the faithful, with stronger words,  that they had not to visit with Padre Pio, and had to avoid any contact with him, "even simply by letter".



Canon Domenico Palladino

In March 1927 a committee that included Mons. Felice Bevilacqua, Emanuale Brunatto, and Padre Alfredo Quattrino was sent to investigate the cathedral’s chapter of canons in the diocese of Manfredonia. Some of the canons were from the San Giovanni Rotondo’s clergy, including don Giuseppe Prencipe, Miscio and Palladino. The investigators dredged a wealth of sordid scandals.[76]



Mons. Bruno

In May 1928 Mons. Bruno substituted on the committee Mons. Bevilacqua, who had been dismissed. Mons. Bruno focused on the archdioceses of Manfredonia and the Archbishop Gagliardi. After the report was presented to the Holy Office Mons. Gagliardi retired to his native village of Tricarico, Palladino was suspended “a divinis” and went to the Tremiti islands, the archpriest Prencipe, the canon De Nittis and canon Miscio had legal consequences.[77] [78] 

 Meanwhile on January 3, 1929, Padre Pio’s mother died. Padre Pio had spent many hours at her bedside.[79]




Mons. Pasquale Gagliardi

Mons. Sebastiano Cuccarollo

On May 5, 1929 Padre Pio reported a dream that Mons. Gagliardi would leave and Mons. Cuccarollo would be the new archbishop of Manfredonia.[80] In fact Mons. Gagliardi left. But Mons Cuccarollo was proposed the transfer, but he refused for a more lucrative assignment. 

Mons. Alessandro Macchi was named Administrator of the archdiocesis of Manfredonia in June 1929.[81]


Mons. Macchi

Mons. Alessandro Macchi (center)

On December 2, 1929, sent by the Holy Office, Mons. Alessandro Macchi, bishop of Como, named administrator of Manfredonia,  went to investigate Padre Pio. He reported: “Padre Pio might have been a saint, but now he is a fool. He lacks the fundament of sanctity, which is humility. He used cologne given to him by his bigot ladies.” He also presented a project to “take Padre Pio to a convent in Switzerland.”[82]


“Letter to the Church”

Emanuele Brunatto had written a book called “Letter to the Church.” The book contained a defense of Padre Pio and uncovered the private lives of prominent churchman opposed to him.[83] Don Luigi Orione tried repeatedly to convince Brunatto not to publish the book.[84]



On March 31, 1931, the news spread in town that shortly a new superior would come to the convent from the province of Milan, and that this move was the harbinger of Padre Pio’s imminent transfer. Within short order the friary was surrounded day and night by citizen armed to the teeth, just as it had been in 1923. Barricades were thrown up in the streets so that no vehicular traffic could get to or from the friary.[85]



Padre Eugenio Tignola

On April 7, 1931, unaware of the turmoil, Padre Eugenio Tignola, a Franciscan friar, went to the convent by bus, hoping to talk to Padre Pio about a personal problem. On the bus somebody wrongly suspected that he was coming to get Padre Pio. Within minutes a news spread: “They are taking Padre Pio away!” At 10:00 PM an ugly mob demanded that “the stranger” be handed over. Padre Pio told the crowd from the window in the choir: “You have always been good. Listen to me. Return to your homes without hurting anyone.” Major Morcaldi, who was in the crowd, went to speak with Padre Raffaele, and was convinced that “the stranger” was an harmless guest. At about 2:30 AM on April 8 the crowd finally started to disperse. In the early hours of the morning after  Padre Eugenio was able to get on the first bus for Foggia, and was happy to reach Napoli later in the day.  [86] [87]


Major Francesco Morcaldi

 The report of what had happened soon reached Rome, and action was taken soon.[88 


"Notificatio" on May 22, 1931

On May 22, 1921 the Holy Office issued an official notification that  the book by Alberto Del Fante "A Padre Pio di Pietrelcina, L'Araldo del Signore" had been put in the Index of the prohibited books.


In the circumstance, another warning was issued by the Holy Office for the faithful, to avoid any contact with Padre Pio.


On May 23, 1931 the Holy Office (prot.255-19) sent to the superior general of the Capuchin order Padre Melchiorre da Benisa, the following directive:


“This Supreme Congregation, in Plenary Assembly, emanates the following Decree: 

“Padre Pio is stripped of all the faculties of the priestly ministry except the faculty to celebrate the Holy Mass, which he may do in private, within the walls of the friary, in the inner chapel, and not publicly in church.”



The original directive is in Latin: “Patri Pio a Pietrelcina omnes auferantes facultates ministeriales, excepta tantum facultate S. Missam celebrandi, sed intra septa dumtaxat monasterii, in sacello interior, privatim, non in ecclesia publica.”


The day after Padre Melchiorre wrote to the Provincial Superior in Foggia that from then on the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo depended directly from the superior general .


On May 25, 1931 the provincial superior notified Padre  Raffaele, the superior of the convent in San Giovanni Rotondo, of the disposition.


On June 8, 1931 Padre Gregorio da Bruna, general administrator of the Capuchin order, sent a letter to Padre Raffaele. In the letter was enclosed the decree from the Holy Office. Padre Gregorio ordered Padre Raffaele to execute the decree and inform him of the outcome.


Padre Raffaele received the letter on June 9, 1931. He was flabbergasted. He kept it locked for a day.

In the evening of June 10, after vespers, he waited for Padre Pio to complete his prayers, sat with him alone, and notified him of the decree. Padre Pio said only few words: “The will of the authority is the will of God.” [89]

Then Padre Pio returned to the choir to pray until after midnight.


The following day was the feast of “Corpus Domini”. From then on Padre Pio celebrated Mass in the little chapel of the convent for more than two years.


This period of Padre Pio’s life has been called “imprisonment”.


He began his day with the rest of the community saying the Office in the choir. He then prepared for Mass, and went to celebrate in the small chapel of the friary in the company of one server.

Since no time limit was set, the Mass lasted up to four hours. He spent the rest of the day in study and prayer.

One day Padre Agostino asked him how he passed his time. Padre Pio: “I pray and study as much as I can, then annoy my brothers. I joke the way I always joke with them, but my jokes are worse than before.”[90]


Spiritually he was tormented by the thought of “weather I am pleasing the Lord in what I am doing.” In 1931 he told Padre Agostino: “Jesus is silent.” In 1932 he told him “that often Jesus makes himself felt, speaking to his soul, and granting him intellectual visions”. He also experienced the presence of Mary and of his Guardian Angel.[91] 


Padre Alberto testified: “From June 11, 1931 to July 15, 1933, Padre Pio could say Mass only behind locked doors. I served his Mass many times during those two years. It lasted about three hours. The memento was interminable. At the Consecration he looked like Jesus Crucified. The memento of the dead was also very long. At the Communion his face was bright and radiant. After Mass he went to the choir for thanksgiving and meditation until noon.”[92]


Padre Pio frequently said: “The hand of the Church is sweet, even when it strikes, because is the hand of the mother.”[93]


Seraphic College



On May 23, 1931, by specific disposition from Rome, the superior general of the Capuchin Order ordered the closure of the Seraphic College of the convent. Padre Pio was the spiritual director of the student, and suffered intensely for the closure. The College, for middle school level students, had been functioning since November 1909. The closure had to be implemented “by extinction”, not accepting new students when the previous left. By September 1932 all the students had left.[94] On that date the seraphic college was transferred to the convent of Tora (Caserta).[95]



In 1933 Emanuele Brunatto threatened again to publish his book “Letter to the Church”, if Padre Pio was not released.[96] [97]


Meanwhile Padre Raffaele reported: “Padre Pio was sick in bed with a 118F fever, during the Holy Week of 1933. The only thing he did was suffering and crying.”[98]


Pasetto and Bevilacqua

Pope Pius XI

In 1933 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli convinced Pope Pius XI to send a personal representative to observe Padre Pio. On March 14, 1933 Mons. Luca Pasetto a capuchin bishop of Gera, and Mons Felice Bevilacqua went to San Giovanni Rotondo, sent by the Pope. Mons. Bevilacqua had been Apostolic Visitor in 1927. They spent time with Padre Pio. They found no wild-eye fanatic, no crazed neurotic, no embittered rebel, but a pleasant, humble, docile, humorous man; a man of prayer and entirely godly. Bevilacqua warned Padre Pio about the terrible damage to the Church should the revelations of Brunatto become public. Padre Pio said: “The Church has a formidable weapon to neutralize the scandal, refuting the episodes alleged in the book.” Mons. Bevilacqua, his eyes brimming with tears, shook his head and said in a chocked voice: “Unfortunately, those allegations are true.” The book was never published.[99] Mons. Pasetto’s favorable report to the Pope was instrumental in modifying his opinion about Padre Pio. In fact, soon the restriction where lifted.[100]




On July 14, 1933 a “Indult” came from the Holy Office, signed by Cardinal Sbarretti, directing that Padre Pio, in consideration that 1933 was a Holy Year celebrating the Redemption, be allowed to celebrate Mass in public, and to hear the confessions of the other friars.[101] The evening of July 15 Padre Pio was notified the good news. The next day the church was packed for Padre Pio’s first Mass in public in more than two years.[102] 



July 16, 1933


There were still many restrictions remaining in place: Padre was not allowed to hear the confessions of laypersons, the sacristy was off limits to all laity, he could not speak to women or let them kiss his hand, the talks with men in the hallway had to be few and brief, the Mass was not to last more than a half hour. [103] [104]


On March 25, 1934 Padre Pio was allowed by the Holy Office the confession of men, and on May 12, 1934 he was permitted to hear the confessions and women. [105]   Thus his ministry was once again in full swing.[106]


August 10, 1935 was the 25th anniversary of priesthood of Padre Pio: sober celebration among many faithful.[107]



Mass in public on August 20, 1935

On August 29, 1936 the Provincial Padre Bernardo D’Alpicella reiterates that is prohibited for lay people to enter in Padre Pio’s cell; also was ordered to keep locked the cloths used by Padre Pio on the wounds, and whomever had they had to return them. Otherwise if priests would be suspended “a divinis”, and if lay they would be interdicted from receiving Holy Communion.[108]



In 1937 the accusations of not implementing the wows of poverty, chastity and obedience intensified against Padre Pio, and many anonymous letters were sent to the Holy Office. He was accused of managing by himself the conspicuous donations of the faithful, of seeing women in the convent at night, of not obeying to say Mass in 30 minutes. All the accusations were patiently evaluated, investigated, and controlled by the superiors in the Capuchin order. Nothing was found to be true.[109]



Padre Donato da Welle

Padre Donato da Welle

On August 7, 1938, the new superior general of Capuchins Padre Donato da Welle, Belgium, visited Padre Pio. He wrote: “I examined the stigmata and observed Padre Pio, and  asked any kind of questions. I can and must affirm that I consider Padre Pio a great saint!”[110]


Pius XII

On March 2, 1939 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope Pius XII. In one of his first moves he ordered the Roman Congregations to “leave Padre Pio alone” and called Padre Pio “The salvation of Italy.”[111]  [112]



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Agostino, d. S. (2012). Diario. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio. Ago12

Alberto, D'Apolito (2007). Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Memories. Experiences. Testimonials. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio. Alb07

Capuano, P. (2012). Con p. Pio: come in una fiaba. Foggia: Grafiche Grilli. Cap12

Castelli, F. (2011). Padre Pio under investigation. The secret Vatican files. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.Cas11

Chiron, Y. (1999). Padre Pio. Una strada di misericordia. Milano: Figlie di San Paolo. Chi99

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

Iasenzaniro, M. (2007). Charismatic piest. Testimonies. San Giovanni Rotondo: Edizioni Padre Pio. Ias07

Malatesta, E. (1999). La vera storia di Padre Pio. Casale Monferrato: PIEMME. Mal99

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

Riese, padre Ferdinando da (2010). Padre Pio da Pietrelcina crocifisso senza croce. San Giovanni Roronto: Edizioni Padre Pio. Fer10




[1] Mal99, 326

[2] Gia12, 166

[3] Ruf91, 168


[5] Per02, 272

[6] Mal99, 263

[7] Pre00, 123

[8] Ruf91, 169, 183, 190

[9] Pre00, 123-4

[10] Per02, 282

[11] Chi99, 161-2

[12] Per02, 274

[13] Pre00, 124

[14] Per02, 282-3

[15] Fer10, 145-6

[16] Gia12, 143

[17] Cas11, 86

[18] Fer10, 146

[19] Mal99, 123

[20] Mal99, 134

[21] Gia12, 140

[22] Cas11, 5

[23] Cas11,64

[24] Cas11, 5

[25] Gia12, 204-5

[26] Cas11, 6

[27] Gia12, 206

[28] Cas11, 232

[29] Cas11, 27

[30] Cas11, 94

[31] Cas11, 132

[32] Cas11, 124

[33] Cas11, 125-6

[34] Cas11, 126

[35] Cas11, 202

[36] Cas11,107

[37] Cas11, 81-133

[38] Cas11, 201

[39] Cas11, 231

[40] Cas11, 272

[41] Cas11, 292

[42] Per02, 298

[43] Per02, 302

[44] Gia12,232

[45] Gia12, 234

[46] Per02, 302

[47] Per02, 301

[48] Per02, 301

[49] Ruf91, 198

[50] Cas11, 292

[51] Ias07, 598

[52] Per02, 303

[53] Ruf91, 193

[54] Ias07, 598

[55] Per02, 307-8

[56] Ruf91, 189-98

[57] Per02, 339-1

[58] Per02, 319-20

[59] Ruf91, 189-98

[60] Per02, 310

[61] Per02, 311

[62] Per02, 312

[63] Per02, 313

[64] Ruf91, 197

[65] Cap12, 19

[66] Ias07, 598

[67] Per02, 322

[68] Ruf91, 198

[69] Ias07, 599

[70] Per02, 320-1

[71] Ias07, 599

[72] Per02, 321

[73] Ias07, 600

[74] Ruf91, 220-1

[75] Ruf91, 223

[76] Ruf91, 223-4

[77] Per02, 344

[78] Gia12, 277-8

[79] Per02, 352-5

[80] Ago12, 86

[81] Gia12, 282

[82] Ga12, 385

[83] Ruf91, 229

[84] Gia12, 285-6

[85] Ruf91, 229

[86] Per02, 366-7

[87] Ruf91, 110-30

[88] Per02, 365-7

[89] Per02, 368-9

[90] Ruf91, 231

[91] Ruf91, 232

[92] Alb07, 97-9

[93] Per12, 374

[94] Ago12, 101 note

[95] Cap12, 20

[96] Ruf91, 235

[97] Per12, 375-8

[98] Chi99, 220

[99] Ruf91, 234-5

[100] Ago12, 104-5 note

[101] Gia12, 301

[102] Per02, 378-9

[103] Per02, 399-400

[104] Gia12, 300

[105] Ago12, 106

[106] Ruf91, 236

[107] Cap12, 21

[108] Cap12, 21

[109] Gia12, 307-9

[110] Ruf91, 238

[111] Gia12, 311

[112] Alle99, 502