|Love of Neighbor
by Most Rev. Paolo Carta, Bishop Emeritus of Foggia
"To oppose the barbarity of hatred and violence we proclaim the
Civilization of Love." This is the solemn statement of Pope Paul VI. "Padre Pio
and the Civilization of Love" was the theme of our first meditation, contemplating
and admiring Padre Pio in the fundamental aspect of the Civilization of Love, or rather
love for our Lord, in its threefold dimensions of love for the Person of Christ, for the
Mother of Christ and for the Church of Christ.
us now meditate on the second aspect, the second requirement, the second characteristic,
that of the Civilization of Love or love for the brethren.
is the great commandment of fraternal charity given by Jesus, who said: "I give unto
you: a new commandment that you love one another, as I have loved von. By this shall all
men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" - Jn 13,34.
John, Apostle and Evangelist, warns in his First Letter 4,20: "If any man says I love
God, and hates his brother; he is a liar.... And this commandment we have from God, that
he who loves God, also loves his brother - if we love one another God abides in us, and
his charity is perfected in us."
Paul VI specified who the brother is that we must love, giving as motto for the Day of
Peace 1971 "Every man is my brother."
the Civilization of Love is built on love for our Lord and love for neighbour. Padre Pio
who was a sublime model of love for our Lord, was also a most shining example of love for
the brethren and he put himself generously and heroically at their service to relieve
their bodies and souls and save them.
Love for Neighbor by Giving Relief to
The Home for the Relief of Suffering that was wanted by Padre Pio and built
prodigiously by him is wonderful evidence.
And precisely because this work was inspired by evangelical
charity for his neighbour, he had the noble and delicate thought of not wanting to call it
a hospital or a clinic. He wanted to call it "home," because the home gives a
sense of family, the home is the centre where hearts are united in love where there is
concern for everyone, but with preference for the suffering members. And he wanted to call
it Home for the Relief to indicate the aim and the trust that the sick person would find
comfort, relief, and a serene recuperation of physical and moral energy.
he wanted to call it Home for the Relief of Suffering because the word suffering has a
Christian sense and brings to mind the suffering of Christ in his Passion, in which the
sick person participates intimately, giving to his sufferings a high spiritual and
by offerings that came from all parts of the world; carried out with the most modern
standards, equipped with all the equipment of advanced science and advanced technology,
rich with the assistance of zealous Capuchin priests and an excellent order of nuns,
Apostles of the Sacred Heart, the Home for the Relief of Suffering will sing for centuries
of the immense love Padre Pio had for his brethren in need of health care and religious
and moral assistance, in serene and welcoming surroundings animated by the charity of
those who pointed out to him that the Home for the Relief of Suffering was too luxurious
and refined, Padre Pio replied: "Too luxurious? But if it was possible I would make
the Home in gold because the sick person is Jesus, and doing everything for our Lord is
the inauguration, the periodical The Home for the Relief of Suffering wrote: "The
Home was born from an ideal of love: that is to contribute towards relieving the
sufferings of the human being under the sign of Christian charity; the true, the only
charity which takes no notice of the difference of caste or political party, of religion
or race, of nobility and wealth. Uniting, in particular, the rich and the poor, abolishing
every hateful difference of treatment. The poor man, the very poor man is our brother: we
owe him the greatest consideration. Charity, in the Home, will be specially directed to
the poor, without making him feel his poverty. It will be a gentle charity, not
humiliating but fraternal."
ideal of love, the Home requests that the doctors bear in mind this exhortation of Padre
Pio's of 6 May 1956: "You have the mission of curing the sick; but if you don't bring
love to the sickbed, I don't think the medicines will be of much use. I have experienced
this: my doctor - when I was ill in 1916-17 - my doctor, when curing me, first of all gave
me a word of comfort. Love cannot manage without words. How can you express it if not with
words that relieve the sick person spiritually? Bring God to the patients, it will be of
more worth than any other cure.
Home for the Relief of Suffering was solemnly inaugurated on 5 May 1956, Padre Pio's name
day. I was Bishop of Foggia at the time and I went to Amendola airport to meet Cardinal
Giacomo Lercaro, who was to preside at the celebrations. During the speeches I was sitting
next to Padre Pio and I admired his humility as his name was praised
sky high. During the
Cardinal's speech he said: "On Thursday, when the Bishop and the priests wash the
feet of the twelve poor men, the following words are sung: where there is charity and
love, there is God.' This morning the thought struck me that this beautiful, clear
sentence could be reversed: 'Where there is God, there is charity and love.' Where He
passes, what He touches, where He comes... carries this note, this unmistakable seal of
charity and love. Have you noticed this at San Giovanni Rotondo? Yes. The whole world has
noticed it. Here God is; obviously there had to be charity and love!
the Home for the Relief of Suffering was born of Padre Pio's love for the suffering
brethren, glowed also from the words with which on that day he, Padre Pio, presented the
work which caused universal admiration. Amongst other things, he said: "I thank the
benefactors from all parts of the world who have co-operated. This is the creature that
Providence, helped by you, has created. Admire it and together bless our Lord God. A seed
has been placed on earth that He will warm with his rays of love. A new army made up of
renunciations and love is about to arise to the glory of God for the comfort of souls and
of infirm bodies."
the first anniversary of the inauguration Padre Pio said to the benefactors: "May our
Lord be praised. The Home for the Relief of Suffering has already opened its arms to
several thousands of infirm bodies and spirits. God has warmed the deposited seed with his
rays of love. From today we take up the second stage of the journey to be accomplished.
The Home will have to increase the number of beds."
the number of beds increased in his lifetime. And the number of beds increased after his
death. And the number of beds is presently eight hundred and with the new wards this year
there will be one thousand beds. (There are now 1,200.) In 1977 the sick admitted and
cured have reached the number of 18,360; and from the opening of the Home - May 1956 to 31
December 1977 the patients who were admitted are exactly 306,785. Of this number not a few
received medical care free of charge, because they were still without a medical scheme or
nun said to me: "But who can count the sick of soul who came to this hospital and
went back to their families reconciled with our Lord and sincerely convinced and
determined to stay in his grace? The Home of Padre Pio is always available and has open
arms at all hours and for every necessity of suffering bodies and souls. The Home has been
created for them and we are here for them always available with a heart bigger than the
sea, following in the Padre's footsteps, ready to give even our lives to save the Home
that. is under such attack."
this point it is no longer home but city. And it is a city where the Civilization of Love
LOVE FOR NEIGHBOUR TO RELIEVE SOULS
But Padre Pio's contribution to the Civilization of Love is even more abundant and
generous in the heroic service of giving relief to souls.
influx of the sick in body is impressive at San Giovanni Rotondo. Far more intense is the
rush of the sick of soul.
They came from all parts of the world. They waited days and days
for their turn, for their moment of grace and blessing: it was the moment of their
confession to Padre Pio. After which they left happy, to tell everyone of the privilege
they had received and to keep in their hearts all their lives the memory of the Padre's
words sealed in Confession. Never can I forget the holy words he told me the first time I
confessed to him, exactly fifteen days after my solemn entrance to Foggia as Bishop. Words
of encouragement that went to the bottom of my heart and accompanied me for all of my
twenty three years as Bishop, seven in Foggia, sixteen at Sassari with Apostolic
Administration of also two other dioceses, Alghero and Ozieri.
that is the other marvelous aspect under which his figure emerges gigantically before us,
Padre Pio the confessor. Or rather, Padre Pio martyr of the confessional.
am a witness of what happened here around him. Every time I came here I saw a crowd
famished for that divine grace that purifies souls, sanctifies and raises them up and
rejoices them by virtue of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And I have seen Padre Pio
looking at that crowd moved with the same sentiments that animated the Heart of Jesus when
He said: I feel pity for this crowd." And I have seen him tired, worn out,
languishing and continuing to hear confessions for hours and hours from morning to night,
men and women, the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor, priests and laymen, coming
from far and wide.
the end of a day in the confessional, he wrote: "My work is always assiduous. And it
is now one o'clock after midnight that I write these few lines. It is now nineteen hours
that I have been working continually. Never mind!"
he exercised the ministry of confession for the duration of fifty-eight years!
far as I know in the story of the Church he has probably beaten all the records of
resistance in the confessional. in the Cause for the recognition of the heroism of- his
virtues for his beatification and canonization, this is certainly his major title of
glory, this is the test of his sanctity, this is the most brilliant example that he has
left for priests in the whole world in this present century and for centuries to come.
can this heroism be explained? With love. With love for neighbour. Like Saint Paul, Padre
Pio could say: "For the charity of Christ presseth us" 2 Cor 5,14.
his letters we find splendid traces of this love for Christ that drove him to sacrifice
himself, to give himself, for the good of the brethren and the relief of souls.
our mutual edification, I extract some passages of various letters to his Spiritual
"I am consumed with love for God and love for my neighbour."
"I am rapidly transported to live for my neighbour."
"I have worked, I want to work. I have prayed, I want to pray; I
have wept and I want to weep always for my brothers in exile."
"I love souls as I love God."
"You must know that I do not have a free moment: a crowd of souls
thirsting for Jesus fall upon me so that I don't know which way to turn. Before such an
abundant harvest, on one hand I rejoice in the Lord, because I see the ranks of elect
souls always increasing and Jesus loved more; and on the other hand I feel broken by such
"There have been periods when I heard confessions, without
interruption for eighteen hours consecutively."
"I am overloaded with work, because I hear confessions all day and
often at night hundreds of thousands of people. I don't have a moment to myself. But God
helps me effectively in my ministry."
"I feel the strength to renounce everything, so long as souls
return to Jesus and love Jesus."
he treated penitents severely, but they were superficial, hypocritical penitents.
sometimes refused to give absolution but he did this because he did not tolerate
perseverance in evil, and because with the gift of scrutiny of hearts, he saw clearly in
consciences and discovered the bad dispositions.
was also a sin, the gravity of which made Padre Pio let fly, obliging him to condemn
inexorably: the sin against maternity, the malicious limitation of children. This was a
crime - a crime against life at its source - which he felt atrociously; he who had given
his own life as a complete gift to our Lord.
the biographies of Padre Pio we read of extraordinary happenings such as miraculous cures,
and the mysterious perfumes that many perceived, from the day he received the stigmata to
the day of his death. There is talk also of bilocations, that is to find oneself in two
different and distant places at once. In this way General Cadorna, Supreme Commander of
the Italian Army replaced after the defeat of Caporetto by General Diaz, in a moment of
dejection, saw in front of him a friar, with bleeding hands and a gentle expression. On
going to San Giovanni Rotondo he recognized Padre Pio in that friar.
this way the well-known actor Carlo Campanini, spiritual son of Padre Pio, stated that he
had seen him one day entering his house in Rome.
quite frankly I have never given much importance to these phenomena. For me the phenomenon
number one is the downright miracle of his love for the brethren manifested above all by
superhuman resistance in the confessional for the relief of souls.
Love for Neighbor by Offering Himself as
In my opinion, the supreme and sublime manifestation of Padre Pio's love for his
brethren is constituted by his offering of himself as a victim for the conversion of
sinners and the salvation of humanity.
offering of a victim signifies offering himself to God with a full and perfect disposition
of accepting any suffering and even death to obtain extraordinary graces.
29 November 19 10, he wrote to his Spiritual Father:
"I want to ask your permission for something. For some time past I
have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the
souls in Purgatory. This desire has been growing continually in my heart so that it has
now become what I would call a strong passion, I have in fact made this offering to the
Lord several times, beseeching to pour out, upon me the punishments prepared for sinners
and for the souls in a state of purgation, even increasing them a hundredfold for me, as
long as He converts and saves sinners and quickly admits to paradise the souls in
Purgatory; but I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It
seems to me that Jesus really wants this. I am sure that you will have no difficulty in
granting me this permission" (Letters I).
December 1910 Padre Benedetto replied:
"Make the offering of which you speak of and it will be most
acceptable to the Lord. Extend your own arms also on your cross and by offering to the
Father the sacrifice of yourself in union with our most loving Saviour suffer, -groan and
pray for the wicked of the earth and for the poor souls in the next life who are so
deserving of our compassion in their patient and unspeakable sufferings" (Letters I).
an apparition of 12 March 1913, Jesus speaks and complains of the ingratitude of men and
"My son, I need victims to calm my Father's just divine anger;
renew the sacrifice of your whole self and do so without any reserve." And Padre Pio
writes: "I have renewed the sacrifice of my life" (Letters I).
Agostino encourages him like this:
"I know that you once offered yourself as a victim for sinners.
Jesus accepted your offering and He has given you the grace to bear the sacrifice
entailed. So have courage a little longer, for the reward is not far off" (Letters
receives encouragement even from Heaven. Here are his words:
"Jesus, his beloved Mother... continue to encourage me and they
keep on repeating that a victim properly so-called must lose all his blood" (Letters
"Did I not tell you that Jesus wants me to suffer without any
consolation? Has He not asked me and chosen me to be one of his victims? Our most sweet
Jesus has really made me understand the full significance of being a victim.
"It is necessary to reach the 'Consummatum est' (it is finished)
and 'In manus tuas' (into your hands)" (Letters I).
After he had received the stigmata he always appeared as someone
bent under a heavy weight. There was someone who pointed it out to him saying:
"Padre, you suffer so much, why did you have the imprudence to offer yourself as a
victim for all humanity. You, Padre, carry the Church on one shoulder and on the other the
corrupt world convulsed by evil." He replied: "Pray that I will not be
on another day to someone who asked him how much he suffered, he replied: "As much as
one can suffer who has taken the burden of all humanity. Pray for the one who carries the
weight of everyone! Everyone's cross!"
Mondrone of La CiviltÓ Cattolica commented: "Like Jesus he went about stooped and
with great difficulty, from one fall to another, under the weight of the cross, of course,
also because of his physical condition horribly tortured and bleeding. But tired above all
because 'supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores' (the sinners ploughed my back)".
back was loaded with the sins of the whole world from the first to the last, because they
all had to be atoned for as everyone had offended God's Majesty. This was the real and
most unbearable weight carried by Jesus' victim. In this way he lived his mission of
Cyrenean for everyone, crushed by the sins of the world, in the confessional, crushed by
the sins of the world at the altar. An abundance of grace flowed from Padre Pio's bleeding
hands: from the hand that absolved in the confessional from the hand that offered bread
and wine at the altar.
in his lifetime, Padre Pio accepted death as a victim in complete clearness of mind,
gently repeating the Names of Jesus and Mary. He died in the middle of the night, at 2.30
on 23 September 1968.
"Consummatum est!" It is finished!
Padre Pio has therefore written luminous pages in the story of the Church of the
Civilization of Love with his love for our Lord and his love for his neighbour.
to his spiritual children and whoever visits his tomb, he repeats with his example, the
message, the invitation, the exhortation to be in the world witnesses and carriers of the
Civilization of Love that has for foundation the evangelical command of charity, for
source the Heart of Christ, for scene of action the whole world, for conclusion the
triumph of love in unending centuries in Paradise. You also must receive this message of
holy love with open hearts. Keep it in your heart as the spiritual fruit of your
pilgrimage to Padre Pio's tomb. Spread it around you, in your families, in the world of
work, in the schools, in social life and together with me address him this supplication
with all your hearts.
Padre, we are happy to have come here on a visit with a spirit of faith and love.
were moved at your tomb, we have admired this stupendous shrine built by you to the glory
of Our Lady of Grace, we have devoutly followed the Way of the Cross placed on the
mountain and we have rejoiced in contemplating the Home for the Relief of Suffering.
a little while we will be leaving. But a part of our heart remains here with you. For the
rest of our lives we will remember the days we spent here with you as days of grace, of
blessings, of holy joy. We will speak of you to those we meet and we will exhort them also
to come to you. We will carry your message of love to everyone.
you, dear Padre Pio, pray for each one of us, for our personal sanctification, for our
eternal salvation, for our families, for the sick, the children, the youth and the
for our country so that hatred is extinguished, violence ends, fraternal love flourishes,
the fruitful collaboration between social classes comes about and days of prosperity and
serenity arise especially for the poor.
all for the Church, so that it accomplishes its mission of evangelization and promotes
humanity for the advent of the Civilization of Love!
[From the Voice of Padre Pio, December 1997,
Friary of Our Lady of Grace, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo, (FG), Italy. Used with permission
of: The National Center for Padre Pio, 2213 Old Route 100, Barto, PA 19504, through which
a subscription may be obtained.]