Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the Padre's Feast, Pope Books a Pilgrimage

On this feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina -- Padre Pio -- all's pandemonium in San Giovanni Rotondo, where over 10,000 kept a nightlong vigil marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Italy's most-beloved saint, and an even larger deluge poured in for today's events.

Presiding at the day's main Eucharist -- held outside the enormous, modern shrine church near the "convent" where the Capuchin mystic made his home -- the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB announced that Pope Benedict will pay his own homage in the Adriatic coastal mecca next year. The trek's precise date hasn't yet been set.

As satellite celebrations filled parishes and cathedrals around the country (for one, 5,000 were expected at a feast-day Mass and procession in Rome), it was reported that over a million have already filed past St Pio's exposed remains since they were put on display in April to mark this year's milestone; due to demand, the viewing period's been extended to run through next September.

Averaging 7 million-plus pilgrims in a normal year, San Giovanni stands second only to Guadalupe on the list of Christianity's most-visited shrines.