BORN FRANCESCO Forgione on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, in the heart of a family of rural peasants, the future Padre Pio entered the Capuchin Order in 1903.
When he first suffered stigmata he begged God to keep the pain but hide the wounds. He tried to keep the phenomena secret from his brother friars, but they finally found out in 1918. In 1926 and in 1931 he was twice banned from celebrating public Masses.
Yet years later he would be admired by Popes such as Paul VI and John Paul II. Paul VI referred to Padre Pio as "the Lord's representative impressed with the stigmata".
John Paul II first met the friar as a young seminarian in 1947. Later, when as Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow he was in Rome participating in Vatican Council II, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a friend of his, Wanda Poltawska, a Polish psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, who was suffering from throat cancer. Eleven days after Wojtyla's letter arrived, the psychiatrist knew she was miraculously cured; this was discovered during preparations for very delicate surgery. Padre Pio's process of beatification began in 1982, 14 years after his death. An additional 17 years of study was necessary before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints unanimously pronounced his "heroic virtues," the first formal declaration in the process of creating a new saint.
The miracle approved by the Holy See is that of a 43-yearold woman who broke her thorax; before undergoing surgery, she prayed intensely to Padre Pio. The night before her operation, she dreamed that Padre Pio told her she was cured. When she awoke, the doctors called off the operation; new examinations proved she was totally cured.
Last May, a scientific commission headed by Professor Rafaello Cortesini, surgeon of La Sapienza University in Rome, examined the case in the context of the beatification process and concluded that the woman's healing was "scientifically inexplicable."
From that day on, a great number of devotees awaited the official recognition by the Holy See, the last step before proceeding with the beatification.