Francis payed homage to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, granting an audience to the prayer groups inspired by this Italian saint; a multitude of 40,000 filled Saint Peter´s square a few days ago, accompanying his relics along with those of Saint Leopold Mandic. The media, who are always so favorable toward Francis, almost unanimously chose one of his characteristic sayings to serve as an opening line for the news item: “Praying is not like taking an aspirin…” (Catholic Review)
The Bishop of Rome’s discourse to the pilgrims was labeled with this phrase — an apparent demand for profoundness in their undertakings. Paradoxically, a profoundness which Francis himself does not seem to possess. Padre Pio had wished to call his hospital. “House for the Relief of Suffering” (Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza), the name it currently holds. But his manner of alleviating the faithful was through an upfront battle against sin, without qualms. However, Bergoglio himself has chosen Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and Saint Leopold Mandic as symbols of the mandate he proffered on Ash Wednesday to more than a thousand missionaries sent throughout the world to confess and pardon, “even the sins that are considered to be the gravest”. Wonderful! How we love to hear of mercy! However, Padre Pio understood the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be the most efficacious means for a soul to abandon the paths of perdition. Here is just one example: Renzo Allegri tells of the torturous spiritual journey of a famous actress of the 50’s and 60’s, Lea Padovani. Padre Pio’s mercy was manifested to her through firm and intransigent words during confession, after which he denied absolution to her. The man she illicitly lived with in Rome had become ill, and this was the motive that had led her to San Giovanni Rotondo to beseech a cure from Padre Pio. After six unsuccessful pilgrimages, she thought it was time to go to confession. The actress herself described the scene:
“I had a twenty minute confession with Padre Pio. With enlightened words, he opened my mind regarding the essential truths of life. His manner of expression was simple, but very efficacious. After a long conversation, he was hard on me: ‘poor deluded one, don’t you realize that everyone scoffs at you? Don’t imagine that I will grant you absolution — leave, and see if you wake up” Feeling rejected, the actress did not hesitate in hurling imprecations upon Padre Pio during her trip back to Rome.
Later on, she was able to normalize her situation, when after her concubine’s miraculous cure he “recuperated his joie de vivre” and abandoned her to go off with another woman. She returned to confess with Padre Pio, who granted absolution and also accepted her request to become his spiritual daughter.
“The Lord always pardons – He never condemns” (see study) affirms Francis. This strange mercy does not seem to be the same as Saint Pio’s. The equalization of the true Catholic Religion with others that do not have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation would have led Lea Padovani to find “pardon” on her own — just as the Protestants who are so dear to Francis, or through simple relaxation therapy, yoga exercises or Buddhist meditation. These days, Padre Pio would be considered nothing more than just another optional accessory that could be avoided, in case he showed too much firmness in his convictions. And he would have ended up not producing the effect – which is beneficial and full of true love – that till the end of his life left profound remembrances among all of those whom he had treated with severity in order to save them from perdition, and also, his tender affection when they effectively abandoned sin. We raise a meaningful hypothesis: How would Francis have treated Padre Pio if he lived during the present pontificate? What would Padre Pio think of the current situation? May each one answer for himself…
Denzinger-Bergoglio correspondent in Rome
1- Renzo Allegri. Padre Pio: Man of Hope, Servant Publications 2000, Ann Arbor, MI