On this past March 17, Pope Francis visited Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, the places associated with St. Pio. In fact, it was not only a visit but also a pilgrimage to this land blessed by the presence of this extraordinary figure who by his holiness and with the wounds of the Crucified impressed on his body—as happened also with our Seraphic Father St. Francis—has reached souls near and far, drawing them to the Lord. Thanks to the shining events of his life, his land, Gargano, has become like another Holy Land.
Pope Francis’s visit was a also pilgrimage, a time to pray and ask the intercession of St. Pio on his pontificate, which in a time of much struggle and many problems, needs the support of the saints. It was also a time to pray for the Church, that her children may be faithful to her and love her, to pray for the world, that wars may cease and the multitude who suffer from hunger, illness, and so many other ills might find in St. Pio a support and an intercessor before God.
In the morning Pope Francis visited the two places, Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, to mark two anniversaries. The first was that of the stigmata of St. Pio, one hundred years ago, which would become for him the cause of much suspicion and misunderstanding. The second was the saint’s final passing from this life in September 1968, fifty years ago, which did not become an abandonment of his spiritual children but led to a greater diffusion of his reputation for holiness. Even now the spiritual odor of sanctity that rises from his stigmata continues to draw many souls.
Both parts of the Pope’s visit drew large crowds, first at Pietrelcina and then at San Giovanni Rotondo. In Pietrelcina the Pope was welcomed by Bishop Felica Accrocca, a noted Franciscan scholar, and spoke with great simplicity to the people, emphasizing the importance of faith for living in peace and serenity.
In San Giovanni Rotondo the Pope met with the sick, children, and friars … he met with and greeted a great number of people. In his homily at the Mass – at which many priests and bishops concelebrated – he recommended three things: prayer, littleness, and true wisdom.
In closing, Most Rev. Michele Castoro, bishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, turned to Pope Francis with a moving greeting of thanks for the gift of his visit.
We hope you enjoy all the photos and videos of the event.
San Giovanni Rotondo
Photo gallery – Voce di Padre Pio