By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
During a pastoral visit yesterday to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in Pietrelcina, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted the Year of Priests to Our Lady and St. Pio.
According to reports by the Catholic News Agency and Asia News, the pope celebrated Mass for thousands of the faithful and visited the saint’s tomb where he called upon the faithful to emulate the Capuchin saint’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“All his life, his apostolate took place under the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin and by the power of her intercession. Even the House for the Relief of Suffering he considered to be the work of Mary, ‘Health of the sick’,” the pope added about the hospital founded by St. Pio.
He went on to call St. Pio, “A simple man of humble origins, ‘seized by Christ’ (Phil 3:12) … to make of him an elected instrument of the perennial power of his Cross: the power of love for souls, forgiveness and reconciliation, spiritual fatherhood, effective solidarity with the suffering. The stigmata, that marked his body, closely united him to the Crucified and Risen Christ.”
While speaking about the day’s Gospel passage, when Jesus calmed the storm, he commented on how St. Pio lived the “storms” of life together with Christ.
“Remaining united to Jesus, he always had his sights on the depths of the human drama, and this was why he offered his many sufferings, why he was able to spend himself in the care for and relief of the sick . . .”
After the Mass, the pope visited the crypt which houses the remains of St. Pio to light two lamps in memory of his visit.
“To the intercession of Our Lady and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, I would like to entrust the Special Year for Priests, which I opened last Friday on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said. “May it be a privileged opportunity to highlight the value of the mission and holiness of priests, to serve the Church and humanity in the third millennium!”
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