A foundation dedicated to spreading devotion to St. Pio of Pietrelcina, best known as Padre Pio, is set to open a rural Kansas chapel that will permanently host a first-class relic of the saint.
Luciano Lamonarca, the founder of the Saint Pio Foundation, told sources that the plan is to inaugurate five chapels dedicated to the saint, each with a first-class relic, across the U.S., in the four cardinal directions so that they form the shape of a cross on a map, with the Kansas chapel forming the center of the cross.
The inaugural chapel, located inside St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Beloit, Kansas, will open on February 11, with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, after which the relic of Padre Pio will be officially placed.
Luciano, who founded the St. Pio Foundation in 2014, said he has seen devotion grow to the saint in the U.S., in the decade since he founded the organization. He also said it is common to hear stories of devotees traveling great distances to pray with relics of St. Pio, especially for healing.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, born Francesco Forgione in 1887 in Italy, became a Franciscan priest around the turn of the 20th century. He took the new name Pio, which is a modernized Italian form of “Pius,” in honor of St. Pius V.
The saint is best known for receiving the stigmata — Christ’s wounds present in his own flesh, and is remembered for his patient suffering in the face of pain and health issues, his fervent prayer, and compassionate spiritual guidance. He was declared a saint in 2002 after his death in 1968.
The five relics of Padre Pio that will be housed in the five chapels are parts of a cloth used to cleanse the stigmatic wound in his side. This cloth is stained with his blood. The Catholic Church has a tradition of giving honor to relics, these are objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Christ himself.
First-class relics are parts of a saint’s body, such as blood, hair, flesh, or teeth; second-class relics are items or fragments of items owned by a saint; and third-class relics are those items that a saint has touched or that have been touched to a first-, second-, or other third-class relic.
Relics are not for worship, but are given honor — “venerated” — because of the saint’s love of and closeness to God. Those praying with relics often beseech the saints to pray for them.
Padre Pio’s relic will be located near a statue of another Italian (in this case Italian-American) saint, Francis Xavier Cabrini, according to Luciano, and near frescoes depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.