SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO On Sunday June 21 the Holy Father Benedict XVI paid a pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo. At the Shrine the Pope was welcomed by Br Mauro Jöhri, General Minister, by the General Definitors; by Br Aldo Broccato, Provincial Minister and by the San Giovanni Rotondo Fraternity. The Pope then made a brief visit to the first-floor of the Friary, to cell n. 1, where Padre Pio died. He then went down to the crypt of the Shrine, to venerate the mortal remains of Saint Pio. Afterwards the Pope celebrated the Eucharist with a crowd of over 30,000 people. Speaking to the friars during his homily, the Pope said:
…You are the heirs of Padre Pio, and the legacy he has left you is holiness.. […] This was always his prime concern, the priestly and fatherly anxiety he had: that people would come back to God, would experience his mercy and, being inwardly renewed, would rediscover the beauty and the joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and living the Gospel. Through his own witness, Padre Pio attracted people to the path of holiness, showing by example the “track” that leads to it: prayer and charity. Many of you, religious men and women and lay people, are so taken up with the thousand occupations needed in the service of pilgrims, or of the sick in the hospital, that you risk neglecting the one truly necessary thing: listening to Christ in order to accomplish God’s will. When you realise that the risk is real, look at Padre Pio: at his example, his sufferings; and invoke his intercession…
In the afternoon Benedict XVI visited the “Home for the Relief of Suffering”, where he met the patients and hospital staff. Then, in the Church of Saint Pio, he met priests, religious men and women and young people. The General Minister addressed these words to the Holy Father:
Help us, Holy Father. Help us feeble friars to come closer to Saint Pio, to his person, his spirituality, his charism. Help us come closer to this gift that God has given to the Church, to the Capuchin Order and to humanity at large, with that fear and trembling felt by those who know they are coming into the presence of the divine. Holy Father, your coming here today is a great gift to us. We feel encouraged by your presence to continue on our journey as consecrated persons with greater fidelity, following Christ as Saint Francis told us.