Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Southern Italy. He was ordained a priest in August 1910. In September 1916, he was assigned to the agricultural community of San Giovanni Rotondo as part of the Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. On September 20, 1918, he received the five wounds of our Lord’s passion, which would stay with him for his remaining 50 years. He was the first stigmatized priest in the history of the church.
By 1919, the news of his stigmata spread to the outside world. Countless physicians tried to explain the wounds, but Padre Pio accepted them as a gift from God. However, he would have preferred to suffer the pains of Christ’s Passion without the world knowing. During the post-war years, Padre Pio and his spiritual gifts of the stigmata, perfume, prophecy and bi location helped lead people back to their faith. Thousands of pilgrims visited San Giovanni Rotondo and Padre Pio was kept busy 19 hours each day. By 1922, restrictions were placed on the public’s access to Padre Pio. Despite these restrictions, his ministries continued.
In 1940, Padre Pio announced his plans to build a Home for the Relief of Suffering. The building opened on May 5, 1956. With the opening of the hospital, Padre Pio became an international figure and his followers greatly increased. A new large church was to be constructed in order to accommodate all the pilgrims. By the mid 1960’s, Padre Pio’s health began to fail and by July 1968, he was almost bedridden.
Padre Pio’s whole life was marked by long hours of prayer and continual austerity. He was worn out by over half a century of intense suffering and constant apostolic activity in San Giovanni Rotondo. He was called to his heavenly reward on September 23, 1968. As he foretold, Padre Pio lived sick but died healthy, with the stigmata healed. He is buried in the new Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
In 1999, Padre Pio was officially beatified. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002.