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Pope Praises Works of Beatified Friar

May 08, 1999|Religion News Service

Pope John Paul II said Monday that the newly beatified Padre Pio set an example for the world by choosing prayer and works of charity as "the authentic road to peace."

The Roman Catholic pontiff addressed about 20,000 pilgrims who remained in Rome for a Mass of thanksgiving the day after he declared the sometimes controversial Capuchin friar blessed, one step below sainthood.

Officials estimated that 200,000 people attended Sunday's papal Mass in St. Peter's Square.

Immediately after the Mass, John Paul flew by helicopter to the piazza of St. John in Lateran on the other side of the Tiber River for prayers with 100,000 people who had watched the ceremony on giant television screens.

"Divine Providence wanted Padre Pio to be proclaimed blessed on the eve of the great Jubilee of 2000 as a dramatic century closes," the pope said at the close of Monday's Mass.

Padre Pio, who died in 1968 at the age of 81, won a wide following as a mystic, but the Vatican distrusted some of his views, and the Holy Office suspended him from his priestly duties for three years in the 1930s. The friar carried the stigmata--Christ-like wounds on his hands, feet and side--for most of his priesthood.

The more than 700 prayer groups he founded and the high-tech hospital he established at his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo in the mountains of southern Italy, John Paul said, are the "two significant gifts that Padre Pio has left us."

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