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San Giovanni Rotondo - Home of Saint Padre Pio
The Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo is now home to the second most visited Catholic Shrine in the world. The town was made famous by Padre Pio who within two years of his arrival received the gift of the Stigmata.
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie comprises of the ancient church and new church, both dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. The heart of the sanctuary is without doubt the ancient church, consecrated in 1676 and where Padre Pio received the wondrous gift of the Stigmata, becoming the first priest in the history of the Catholic Church to receive the wounds of Christ.
As a response to the increasing number of pilgrims arriving in San Giovanni Rotondo to meet the humble friar, a bigger church was constructed and inaugurated in 1959. Described by Padre Pio as a �matchbox� it is here where Padre Pio celebrated his last Mass on the 22nd of September 1968 and is now home to some fine mosaics and precious relics of St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In the crypt of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie one can visit the old tomb where the mortal remains of Padre Pio rested for almost 40 years.
In the adjoining capuchin friary where Padre Pio arrived in July 1916 one can see the typical capuchin cell where Padre Pio lived and the �St. Francis Room� where he daily greeted and blessed the faithful who had travelled from all parts of Italy and beyond to meet the capuchin friar.
Reflecting the growing number of devotees and in order to better accommodate the relics of the Saint the impressive Church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, after ten years under construction, was inaugurated in 2004 making it the second largest church in Italy. Following the consecration of the crypt by Pope Benedict XVI the mortal remains of the saint from Pietrelcina were transferred to the church dedicated to him. As the pilgrim makes their way towards the crypt, through the impressive mosaics of the Jesuit priest Fr. Mark Ivan Rupnik, one can see comparisons of the life of St. Francis of Assisi with that of his true servant, St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Within the crypt lie the mortal remains of this great saint of our time on display for veneration by the faithful.
Nestled at the foot of Monte Castellano lies the hospital, �Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza�. A combination of Providence along with donations by the faithful succeeded in realising Padre Pio�s dream of providing the town of San Giovanni Rotondo with a �Home for Relief of Suffering.� Sixty years since its inauguration the hospital is now one of the most important hospitals in southern Italy and a very important research centre.
Beside the hospital is the impressive Via Crucis, inaugurated in 1971. Consisting of 14 stations in bronze and marble by the sculptor Francesco Messina, the tranquillity of the surroundings allows for prayer and meditation. The route passes through several bends before arriving at the Square of the Resurrection with the marble statue of the risen Jesus.
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