Italy's Padre Pio 'faked his stigmata with acid'

By Malcolm Moore in Rome

Last Updated: 2:36am BST 24/10/2007
Padre Pio, Italy's most-loved saint, faked his stigmata by pouring carbolic acid on his hands, according to a new book.

The Other Christ: Padre Pio and 19th Century Italy, by the historian Sergio Luzzatto, draws on a document found in the Vatican's archive.

The document reveals the testimony of a pharmacist who said that the young Padre Pio bought four grams of carbolic acid in 1919.

"I was an admirer of Padre Pio and I met him for the first time on 31 July 1919," wrote Maria De Vito.

She claimed to have spent a month with the priest in the southern town of San Giovanni Rotondo, seeing him often.

"Padre Pio called me to him in complete secrecy and telling me not to tell his fellow brothers, he gave me personally an empty bottle, and asked if I would act as a chauffeur to transport it back from Foggia to San Giovanni Rotondo with four grams of pure carbolic acid.

"He explained that the acid was for disinfecting syringes for injections. He also asked for other things, such as Valda pastilles."

The testimony was originally presented to the Vatican by the Archbishop of Manfredonia, Pasquale Gagliardi, as proof that Padre Pio caused his own stigmata with acid.

It was examined by the Holy See during the beatification process of Padre Pio and apparently dismissed.

Padre Pio, whose real name was Francesco Forgione, died in 1968. He was made a saint in 2002. A recent survey in Italy showed that more people prayed to him than to Jesus or the Virgin Mary. He exhibited stigmata throughout his life, starting in 1911.

The new allegations were greeted with an instant dismissal from his supporters. The Catholic Anti-Defamation League said Mr Luzzatto was a liar and was "spreading anti-Catholic libels".
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Padre Pio fraud.
A new book by historian Sergio Luzzatto, The Other Christ: Padre Pio and 19th Century Italy, argues that there is documentary evidence that the alleged saint was a fraud. Now there is a surprise.
As far as I'm concerned Pio, whose real name was Franceso Forgione, claimed to be a stigmatic, one whose body exhibited the wounds of Christ. In 1911 the priest wrote a letter claiming that he felt pain in the middle of his hands and under his feet and that a red mark appeared. But he conveniently prayed that they be removed and they were. He did not pray that the pain be removed and he insisted he still felt it but that now God made the marks invisible so other people could not see them.
Pio claimed the marks appeared in the center of his hand. A nail through that section of the hand would not hold a body to the cross. The nails would have to be two to three inches further done. Apparently God, in giving people the “wounds” of Christ mislocated them. In reality stigmatic frauds mimic the wounds they see in popular art.
Pio claimed that the love of God was exhibited through suffering inflicted on the believer. What a masochist! And the crazy priest claimed that Satan appeared before as naked girls dancing, as the Pope, and even as the alleged Virgin herself. In another incident the priest claimed he was hearing confession in August, 1918 where he was “suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person”. The boy in confession apparently would not see this apparition since Pio claimed the vision was in “my mind’s eye.” The apparition supposed threw a steel blade that emitted fire into him causing great pain and he claimed he was in constant pain from that point on.
Pio was always claiming to be sickly and in pain even as a young man. During the First World War he was in the army but spent much of his time in the infirmary. It appears to me that the priest had a psychiatric condition known as Munchausen syndrome. The founder of Rome’s Catholic university hospital concluded that the priest was “an ignorant and self-mutilating psychopath who exploited people’s credulity.” Reports to the Pope, about the priest, claimed he used a metal-tipped whip to beat himself. Of course in religion mental illness can easily be sanctified. In theological fantasy the mentally ill are either demon possessed or saints.
Pio then claimed that Christ popped down for a visit and inflicted the “wounds” on his body on October 22, 1918. This time the wounds were permanent. His followers say he preferred to “suffer in secret” though letters telling people about his wounds survive and the priest allowed pictures of himself to be taken where he appears to be showing off the wounds int he most obvious way possible. He even announced, at one point, “I do want to suffer, even to die of suffering, but all in secret.” Somehow announcing it makes it less than secret, quite the contrary it publicizes the suffering and creates the attention that is being sought.
In 1923 the priest was forbidden to teach the boys at the monastery school because the Vatican considered him a “a noxious Socrates, capable of perverting the fragile lives and souls of boys.” And when he admitted to taking money during confession he was forbidden to hear confession.
Luzzatto reveals that the Vatican has the signed testimony of a pharmacist, Marie de Vito, that: “Padre Pio called me to him in complete secrecy and telling me not to tell his fellow brothers, he gave personally an empty bottle, and asked if I would act as a chauffeur to transport it back from Foggia to San giovanni Rotondo with four grams of pure carbolic acid.” The testimony had been secured and given to the Vatican by the Archbishop of Manfredonia who believed that Pio was a fraud.
Even some pro-Pio publications have written that the priest periodically would smell of carbolic acid. Others claimed that there was a sweet, flowery smell coming from the wounds. Of course if the smell of carbolic acid was problem then Pio might wish to cover it up by perfuming himself heavily.
The revelation of the document has brought about an interesting response from the fundamentalist Catholics. Pietro Siffi of the Catholic Anti-Defamation League argued that Pope John Paul II declared Pio to be a saint and “canonization carries with it papal infallibility.” Well, that settles it.
After the death of the priest the Pope rushed through canonization for the priest. It was a kind of drive-through window for sainthood.
Interestingly as the priest got older his wounds seemed to fade. Now a physical explanation would be that aging made it harder for him to fake the wounds. And when he died and his body was examined there were no wounds apparent at all. Yet, the wounds were alleged to have been present his entire life. This would indicate very superficial wounds that healed unless aggravated intentionally.
And it should be noted that stigmatics don’t actually every exhibit marks of crucifixion as is widely assumed. For instance there is no indication that there were actual holes in the hands of Pio, merely wounds on the skin itself -- something that can be caused by various irritants. In addition if you look at the photos of Padre Pio you may notice something of interest regarding the wounds. In the photo when he was younger the wounds appear smaller, rounder and near the center of his palms (which is not where the nails would have gone during a crucifixion). In the photo of the older Pio the wound not only enlarged, and became more more dramatic, but is now closer to his thumb, which is still the wrong place anyway.
posted by GodlessZone at Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | 0 comments

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