Italian saint Padre Pio's remains go on display

Other News Materials 24 April 2008 14:11 (UTC +04:00)

Tens of thousands of pilgrims converged Thursday in a southern Italian village to witness the first public display of Italian saint Padre Pio's exhumed remains, reported the dpa.

The event in San Giovanni Rotondo was scheduled to begin with a late-morning Mass ahead of the unveiling of Pio's corpse.

Pio who died 40 years ago and is famous for his stigmata (wounds on his hands and feet corresponding to those of the crucified Christ) continues to be widely venerated by many Catholics worldwide.

The Capuchin friar's corpse was lifted from the crypt were it had laid since 1968, in March - an event witnessed by a small group of mostly Church officials.

The Vatican has said it plans to put Padre Pio's remains on public display in a glass casket for a "few months."

Born as Francesco Forgione in 1887, Pio was given his name when he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Controversy dogged much of his life, as many, including initially the Catholic Church's upper echelons, viewed with scepticism his claims of spiritual visions and the stigmata which first appeared in 1918.

Rome's rehabilitation of Padre Pio culminated in 2002 when Pope John Paul II proclaimed him a saint.