Padre Pio gained worldwide recognition for his religious devotion and his stigmata, or wounds that were similar to those that Jesus received on the cross. He died 50 years ago on September 23, 1968 and was canonized as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina by Saint Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Today, Padre Pio has millions of followers around the globe. Most recently, a tour of his garments and relics in the United States, Mexico and Canada, sponsored by the New York-based Saint Pio Foundation, attracted more than half a million of the faithful.
In a special ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the saint’s passing, the Saint Pio Foundation presented a life-sized bronze sculpture called “I Absolve You” to the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral located at 268 Mulberry Street in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Saint Pio had a reputation for reading hearts and discerning whether the people had been truthful or whether he had left out a sin, which brought hundreds of people to him every day, eager to unburden themselves and repent. Now the faithful will be able to engage in a meditation to recreate that experience, with an “interactive” statue of St. Pio in his role as confessor. The sculpture, a gift to the church from the Saint Pio Foundation, features an outdoor confessional with two seats, one for Saint Pio and one for whoever cares to sit on the other side of the confessional screen from him. A glance at the screen reveals the face of Jesus, a visual reminder that the priest acts ‘In Persona Christi’ (in the person of Christ) when he hears confessions.