|Holy Father's Homily at
Beatification - 2 May 1999
He learned love
at the foot of the Cross
Holy Father beatifies Padre Pio of Pietrelcina,
Capuchin friar who shared intensely in Christ's Passion
"Sing a new song to the Lord!".
1. The summons of the entrance antiphon captures well the joy of
so many of the faithful who have long awaited the beatification of Padre Pio of
Pietrelcina. By his life given wholly to prayer and to listening to his brothers and
sisters, this humble Capuchin friar astonished the world.
Countless people came to meet him in the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and, since his
death, the flow of pilgrims has not ceased. When I was a student here in Rome, I myself
had the chance to meet him personally, and I thank God for allowing me today to enter
Padre Pio's name in the book of the blessed.
Guided by the texts of this Fifth Sunday of Easter, which
provides the context for the beatification, let us this morning trace the main features of
his spiritual experience.
Padre Pio's life was a constant act of faith
2. "Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God and believe also in me" (Jn 14: 1). In the Gospel just
proclaimed, we heard these words of Jesus to his disciples who were in need of
encouragement. In fact, his allusion to his imminent departure had thrown them into
turmoil. They were afraid of being abandoned, of being alone, and the Lord consoled them
with a very specific promise: "I am going to prepare a place for you", and
then, "I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be
also" (Jn 14: 2-3).
Through Thomas, the Apostles reply to this
reassurance: "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the
way?" (Jn 14: 5). The remark is apt, and Jesus does not avoid the question
which it implies. The answer he gives will remain for ever a light shining for generations
still to come: "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one
comes to the Father but by me" (Jn
The "place" that Jesus goes to prepare is
in "the house of the Father"; there the disciple will be able to be with the
Master for all eternity and share in his joy. Yet there is only one path that leads
there: Christ, to whom the disciple must be conformed more and more. Holiness
consists precisely in this: that it is no longer the Christian who lives, but Christ
himself who lives in him (cf. Gal 2: 20). An exhilarating goal, accompanied by a
promise which is no less consoling: "Whoever believes in me will also do the
works that I do, and greater works than I will they do, because I am going to the
Father" (Jn 14: 12).
3. We hear these words of Christ and think of the
humble friar of Gargano. How clearly were they fulfilled in Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina!
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe
...". What was the life of this humble son of St Francis if not a constant act
of faith, strengthened by the hope of heaven, where he could be with Christ?
"I am going to prepare a place for you ...
that where I am you may be also". What other purpose was there for the demanding
ascetical practices which Padre Pio undertook from his early youth, if not gradually to
identify himself with the Divine Master, so that he could be "where he was"?
Those who went to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend his
Mass, to seek his counsel or to confess to him, saw in him a living image of Christ
suffering and risen. The face of Padre Pio reflected the light of the Resurrection.
His body, marked by the "stigmata", showed forth the intimate bond between
death and resurrection which characterizes the paschal mystery. Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina shared
in the Passion with a special intensity: the unique gifts which were given to
him, and the interior and mystical sufferings which accompanied them, allowed him
constantly to participate in the Lord's agonies, never wavering in his sense that
"Calvary is the hill of the saints".
Obedience became a crucible of purification
4. No less painful, and perhaps even more
distressing from a human point of view, were the trials which he had to endure as a
result, it might be said, of his incomparable charisms. It happens at times in the history
of holiness that, by God's special permission, the one chosen is misunderstood. In that
case, obedience becomes for him a crucible of purification, a path of
gradual assimilation to Christ, a strengthening of true holiness. In this regard, Bl. Pio
wrote to one of his superiors: "I strive only to obey you, the good God having
made known to me the one thing most acceptable to him and the one way for me to hope for
salvation and to sing of victory" (Letter I, p. 807).
When the "storm" broke upon him, he took as his rule of life the exhortation of
the First Letter of Peter, that we have just heard: Come to Christ, a living
stone (cf. 1 Pt 2: 4). He himself thus became a "living stone" for the
building of that spiritual house which is the Church. For this we today give thanks to the
5. "You too are living stones, built into a
spiritual house" (1 Pt 2: 5). How fitting are these words if we apply them
to the extraordinary ecclesial experience which grew up around the new blessed! So
many people, meeting him directly or indirectly, rediscovered their faith; inspired by his
example, "prayer groups" sprang up in every corner of the world. To all who
flocked to him he held up the ideal of holiness, repeating to them: "It seems
that Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul" (Letter II, p.
If God's Providence willed that he should be active without ever leaving his convent, as
though he were "planted" at the foot of the Cross, this is not without
significance. One day the Divine Master had to console him, at a moment of particular
trial, by telling him that "it is under the Cross that one learns to love" (Letter
I, p. 339).
The Cross of Christ is truly the outstanding school
of love; indeed, the very "well-spring" of love. Purified by suffering, the
love of this faithful disciple drew hearts to Christ and to his demanding Gospel of
6. At the same time, his charity was poured out
like balm on the weaknesses and the sufferings of his brothers and sisters. Padre Pio
thus united zeal for souls with a concern for human suffering, working to build at San
Giovanni Rotondo a hospital complex which he called the "House for the Relief of
Suffering". He wanted it to be a first-class hospital, but above all he was concerned
that the medicine practiced there would be truly "human", treating
patients with warm concern and sincere attention. He was quite aware that people who are
ill and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also, and more importantly,
a human and spiritual climate to help them rediscover themselves in an encounter with the
love of God and with the kindness of their brothers and sisters.
Abandon yourselves fully to the heart of Jesus
With the "House for the Relief of
Suffering", he wished to show that God's "ordinary miracles" take place
in and through our charity. We need to be open to compassion and to the generous
service of our brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science and
technology at our disposal.
7. The echo stirred by this beatification in Italy
and throughout the world shows that the fame of Padre Pio, a son of Italy and of Francis
of Assisi, has gone forth to embrace all the continents. And I gladly greet those who have
gathered here in the first place the Italian authorities who have chosen to be
present: the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, the Prime
Minister, who leads the official delegation, and the many other
ministers and distinguished guests. Italy is represented
most worthily! But also the many faithful from other nations have gathered
here to pay homage to Padre Pio.
My affectionate greeting goes to all who have come
from near and far, with a special thought for the Capuchin Fathers. To everyone
I offer heartfelt thanks.
8. Let me conclude with the words of the Gospel of
this Mass: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God".
There is a reference to this exhortation of Christ in the advice which the new blessed
never tired of giving to the faithful: "Abandon yourselves fully to the divine
heart of Jesus, like a child in the arms of his mother". May these words of
encouragement fill our hearts too and become a source of peace, serenity and joy. Why
should we fear, if Christ for us is the Way, and the Truth and the Life? Why should
we not trust in God who is the Father, our Father?
May "Our Lady of Graces", whom the humble
Capuchin of Pietrelcina invoked with constant and tender devotion, help us to keep our
gaze fixed on God. May she take us by the hand and lead us to seek wholeheartedly that
supernatural charity flowing forth from the wounded side of the Crucified One.
And you, Bl. Padre Pio, look down from heaven upon
us assembled in this square and upon all gathered in prayer before the Basilica of St John
Lateran and in San Giovanni Rotondo. Intercede for all those who, in every part of the
world, are spiritually united with this event and raise their prayers to you. Come to the
help of everyone; give peace and consolation to every heart. Amen!