Real Name: Padre Pio
Place Of Birth: Pietrelcina, Benevento, Italy
Date Of Birth: May 25, 1887
Location: San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy
Background: Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in 1887, the son of Italian farmers. In 1903, he decided to join the priesthood. In 1910, he was ordained at the age of twenty-three. On the morning of September 20, 1918, he was deep in prayer when he experienced an "ecstasy" or a profound vision of Jesus that left tangible evidence behind. After the vision ended, he noticed that his hands, feet, and side were bleeding. These wounds are considered "stigmata" and are believed to correspond with the wounds that Jesus received while on the cross.
From the start, some church officials doubted Padre Pio's claims. They suspected that the wounds had been self-inflicted, so they called in doctors to examine them. One of the doctors conducted an experiment: he asked the friars to bandage the wounds and seal them for eight days. When the bandages were removed, there were no signs of healing. This suggested that Padre Pio's claims were legitimate.
As word spread about his stigmata and vision, pilgrims began to come to San Giovanni Rotondo, anxious to be blessed by Padre Pio. Due to both positive and negative publicity, the church sent him to an internal exile. This prevented him from appearing in public and completing his priestly duties. After three years, the exile ended and he was returned to his position. However, he was not allowed to show his stigmata in public.
As the years passed, Padre Pio began to have an international reputation as a man of miracles. Thousands of people came to him, seeking divine intervention for their afflictions. Among them were Vera and Barta Calandra of Bartel, Pennsylvania, who asked him to bless their ill daughter, Vera Marie. The Calandras believe that she is alive to day thanks to Padre Pio.
On September 23, 1968, Padre Pio passed away; during the final days of his life, his stigmata finally healed. After his death, the Calandras founded the National Center for Padre Pio. The organization has worked hundreds of people who are believed to have been healed by Padre Pio, even after his death.
- Vera Marie Calandra - Vera Marie was born in 1966 with congenital defects of the kidneys and urinary tract. After two years and several operations, her doctor told her parents that she was not going to live. Her bladder had to be removed and she was fitted with a catheter. Her parents were still hopeful for a miracle. Her mother Vera sent a telegram to Padre Pio, asking for his help. One day, she experienced the fragrance of fresh roses and then heard his voice, telling her to bring Vera Marie to Italy to visit him. On September 1, 1968, the Vera and her ill daughter arrived at Padre Pio's church. After a brief encounter with Padre Pio, the two returned the next day and had a private meeting with him. He blessed Vera Marie and her mother knew that a miracle had occurred. Two weeks later, Vera Marie's doctor discovered that part of her bladder remained in her body. Amazingly, she soon recovered; she is now an adult who has no evidence of the illness that nearly killed her as a child.
- Paul Walsh - In December of 1983, Paul, then a high school senior, was severely injured in a car accident. His skull was crushed and almost all of the bones in his face were broken. At the time, doctors gave him almost no chance of survival. He soon lapsed into a coma after developing hydrocephalus and spinal meningitis. At his bedside, his mother, Betty, read a prayer by Padre Pio. At that same time, Paul's arm appeared to reach for his forehead. It appeared as if he was making the sign of the cross. Betty contacted the National Center for Padre Pio; Harry Calandra came to visit Paul. He placed a glove worn by Padre Pio on Paul's head and recited a prayer to Padre Pio. Almost immediately, Paul's body jolted and he briefly awoke from his coma. The next day, Betty returned and found Paul awake and moving, as if he were back to normal. He later described a vision of Padre Pio that had occurred while he was in the hospital; surprisingly, his roommate claimed to have seen him as well. Today, Paul is alive and well; he believes that Padre Pio helped save his life.
Notes: The case was featured as a part of the January 20, 1995 episode.
On June 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II elevated Padre Pio to sainthood. More than 200,000 people filled St. Peter's Square for the ceremony.