The incorruptible remains of popular Capuchin Saints Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic, known specifically for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions arrived in Rome’s basilica of St. Lawrence on Wednesday, February 3, for the Year of Mercy, particularly for the Ash Wednesday ceremony and the official commissioning of the “missionaries of mercy.”
They will remain for a week of vigils, Masses and stops at several Roman churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica, before returning to their usual place of repose.
The two saints who lived during the same period of time were both members of the Order of Friars Minor founded by St. Francis of Assisi, and were both canonized by St. John Paul II.
In Roman Catholicism, if a body is judged as incorruptible after death, this is generally seen as a sign that the individual is a saint. The Catholics believe that divine intervention allows some human bodies specifically saints to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness.
After a day of being open to the public for veneration, the remains of the saints will be transferred to the Roman church of San Salvatore in Lauro Feb. 4 for an all-night prayer vigil.
Saint Padre Pio’s body will be kept at the basilica’s Altar of the Confession until Feb. 11, so that pilgrims can come to venerate the saint during the basilica’s usual operating hours, between 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione) of Pietrelcina was born in Italy on May 25, 1887. On August 10, 1910, at the age of twenty-three, Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood. Padre Pio was the first priest to bear the stigmata — the holy wounds of Christ — just like St. Francis of Assisi. God endowed Padre Pio with many extraordinary spiritual gifts and charisms including the gift of healing, bilocation, prophecy, miracles, discernment of spirits, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak and understand languages that he had never studied), and the fragrance which emanated from his wounds and which frequently announced his invisible presence. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio on June 16, 2002.
Leopold Mandić, O.F.M. Cap. (also known as Leopold of Castelnuovo) lived from12 May 1866 – 30 July 1942. He is known for spending 12-15 hours of love per day, he waited and received thousands of penitents, streaming in without interruption, one after another to receive the Sacrament of Penance even in spite of his disabilities. He was canonized by St. John Paul II on Dec. 16, 1983.
Interviewing Archbishop Fisichella, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, on the arrival of the relics, he said that “their presence in Rome “is of great significance for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God."
“The desire of the Holy Father was to give all the priests in the world, but especially to the missionaries of mercy, a sign. Where can we find a better sign of sanctity, of holiness, of dedication, total dedication to confession (than) in Padre Pio and in Padre Leopoldo?" he added.