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Padre Pio, a man of mercy An article written by the General Procurator of Friars Minor Capuchin and Delegate for Padre Pio’s Prayers Groups out of Europe, Antonio Belpiede, gives a religious and human interpretation of the figure of the friar from Pietrelcina, made a saint in 2002 by Antonio Belpiede
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Padre Pio da Pietralcina

December 8 marks the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis. In February, when Lent begins, the remains of Padre Pio and Padre Leopoldo, another Franciscan capuchin-saint will be brought to Rome, to St. Peter’s, to be a model and example for the new “missionaries of mercy”, the many priests that St. Peter’s successor is sending out into the world to bring the forgiveness that comes from the blood of Jesus, spilled for all.

According to St. Augustin, misericordia means miseris cor dare – giving one’s heart to the miserable. Padre Pio was a man of God who poured out the mercy that God had extended to him to throngs of people needing forgiveness and reconciliation. Only a man who has been profoundly forgiven knows how to forgive. In the suffering of his life, in his youthful illness and in the painful gift of stigmata the friar from Pietrelcina was purified with a long bath in the blood of Jesus. Some cultures find it difficult even to talk about blood, like the Jews who, when they listened to Jesus talk about his body being offered as food, left in indignation. And yet blood and water flow from a mother’s body when she gives birth to her child, just as they flowed from Christ’s open side on the cross. In the experience of the Church, that water has spread into the sacrament of Baptism, and the blood into the food offered in the Eucharist. The sacrament of reconciliation, called “Confession”, is a prolonging of Baptism over the lifetime, as if the waters that made us Christians were still being poured over us, over our head bowed under the weight of guilt and suffering that life can inflict. The priest called to lay his hands on this head and say the words “I absolve you of your sins” is a poor sinner who has already been pardoned by God and feeds on God’s forgiveness. When brother Leone asked him why everyone followed him like a saint, Francis of Assisi said humbly: “Because God could find no greater sinner than me () so that it will be understood that every good thing comes from him, not from me”. Padre Pio had the same feelings as the saint that he had followed as a youth. Conscious of being filled with mercy by God, he poured it out onto the altar and into the sacrament of forgiveness. His severe face was the only fruit of his teaching illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He knew when to use kindness and when the whip: he was able to see into the heart of each person as the surgeon sees the patient’s open chest and cuts, removes, cleans, stitches and heals.

From the pardoned heart comes forgiveness. Every war, every violence and every injustice would cease if men and women fed on forgiveness. The first step is to let oneself be forgiven and to eat a new food. In this, Padre Pio, a man of forgiveness and the Mass, was a real model. The great Paul VI said these words about him: “Look at the hunger that possessed Padre Pio! () But why? () Because he said Mass humbly, he heard confession from morning to night, and he was the perfect representation of the stigmata of Our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering” (20 February 1971).

Pope Frances wants to offer every inhabitant on the planet the forgiveness that flows from the wound of Christ, the Risen Lord who lives in the centuries and reigns from the top of the cross, from the throne of the one true King. He wants to invite every forgiven person to eat of Christ’s body: “Take and eat, this is my body. Take and drink. This is my blood, spilled for you”. Padre Pio and Padre Leopold are coming to Rome to be a model for all the priests that in this year of mercy offer to all the same precious gift.

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