Catholics flocked to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia to view the relics of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. The event marks the beginning of a 12-city, nationwide tour celebrating the 130th anniversary of the saint’s birth.
Padre Pio, as he is popularly known, was the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Catholic church, meaning he had marks on his hands and feet where the church teaches Jesus was wounded while nailed to a cross. Pio died in 1968 and Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.
Catholics from far and wide filled the church to view personal items, called first-class relics, marked with the saint’s blood.
Thomas Wong made the pilgrimage from Washington D.C. He said Padre Pio’s life was an example of Jesus’ teachings.
“When we carry our own trials in life, which are not as huge as Christ’s suffering on the cross, that there’s hope and that we can carry on and look forward to a day where there’s no more pain and that it all ends in happiness,” said Wong.
Anna Famador was one of the many filling the pews of Saints Peter and Paul on Saturday. She lives in Voorhees, New Jersey but she was born in the Philippines, where she said Padre Pio was a major figure throughout her childhood. Seeing the his relics in-person gave her a connection to her to her home and family, she said.
“His presence in my family was a big part of my childhood so actually having his relics here is a very special thing to me,” said Famador.
Pablo Freire is from Ecuador, now he lives in Gap, Pa. He said his wife introduced him to the life of Padre Pio. He said the relics serve as a physical reminder that we are all called to take care of each other.
“Sometimes we need to be reminded of how, you know, humanity is important,” he said.
The relics will remain on display until Monday evening following a Mass at 7:30 p.m. inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.