In the years after World War II, the young Fr Karol Wojtyla was doing further study in Rome. He journeyed into rural Italy so that he could spend nearly a week in San Giovanni Rotondo and be in the company of Padre Pio. At the time, swarms of people did not buzz around Padre Pio, so the young Fr Wojtyla had the opportunity to speak at length with the Franciscan who called himself the ‘humble friar who prays’.
Decades later, when Fr Wojtyla became the Holy Father, people speculated as to whether Padre Pio had told him that he would be Pope. Pope John Paul II clarified that Padre Pio did not tell him that he would be Pope.
But Padre Pio went further than reading the future for Fr Wojtyla, and did something much more decisive and significant. When Fr Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which one of his wounds (from the stigmata) caused him the most suffering, Padre Pio divulged, “it is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated.” After the most diligent analysis of Padre Pio’s life, it was revealed that Fr Wojtyla was the only person that Padre Pio ever told about his most painful and bloody wound.
Padre Pio had his reasons, which are unknown, for not telling the young Pole that he would be the Holy Father. But it’s certain that Padre Pio bore the wounds of Christ, and deliberately confided in the priest who would be the Vicar of Christ. It’s like Padre Pio was talking directly to the soul of one who God had ordained would be Pope.
But there’s something even more unique. From what we know, Padre Pio did not tell other Popes, such as Paul VI (the reigning Pope when Padre Pio died) about his most excruciating wound. From all ruling popes and all future popes, Fr Wojtyla was the one entrusted with this secret.
On Sunday, Pope Francis will canonise the only pope who Padre Pio entrusted with the most private detail of his stigmata.
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