In Puglia in Southern Italy there is the second most visited shrine in the world, the shrine of Padre Pio. Over 7 million pilgrims make their way every year to pay homage and to pray at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace), built in the 1950’s to accomodate those that were travelling to see Padre Pio. Padre Pio died in 1968 and was canonized a saint on june 16th 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Many of the pilgrims walk the many thousands of miles of pilgrim walks throughout Europe every year and it is said that they mostly end at ‘Camino de Santiago de Compastela’ in Spain. Another pilgrim destination is Lourdes in France.
A short summary of Padre Pio.Francesco Forgione was born May 25th 1887 in Pietrelcino, Italy, he entered the friary in 1903 and one year later received the Capuchin habit, at this which time he took the name ‘Pio’. He became a priest and in 1916 went to San Giovanni Rotondo where he remained for the remainder of his days.His great love of Christ and the virgin Mary made him greatly admired, news of his holiness and reports of miraculous healing spread quickly and people started to travel just to see him and to ask him to pray for them. Padre Pio’s most spiritual famous gift was the ‘stigmata'(the wounds of Christ). His devotion to others, especially those in need of help, is seen in the hospital that he had built in San Giovanni Rotondo. He started the plans in 1940 and it was opened in 1956, it is said to be one of the most efficient hospitals in Europe. The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie remains central to the sanctuary to this day. Padre Pio died September 23 1968 and his body was placed on display in the crypt in 2008 to mark the 40th anniversary of his death. At the shrine there is also a way of the cross on the hillside above ‘Santa Marie delle Grazie’
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