By the mid 1920's there was a concerted effort by Padre Pio's enemies, including even his own bishop, to bring his ministry to a halt. False stories, rumors and accusations had reached the highest levels in the Vatican itself. As a consequence, in 1923 the Congregation of the Holy Office issued a public decree declaring that there was nothing supernatural in the ministry of Padre Pio, and therefore the faithful should act accordingly. In other words, the stigmata, miracles, cures, bilocation and conversions were not acknowledged by the Vatican. The Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), was responsible for the defense and promulgation of Catholic Doctrine.
Notwithstanding the decree, crowds continued to besiege the monastery, spurred on by the many who had been recipients of Padre Pio's charismatic gifts. Thus, in 1924 a new decree was issued, in which the Vatican repeated that nothing supernatural has been exhibited by Padre Pio, and the Holy Office again exhorted the faithful to abide by its decision. By 1925 many restrictions on his priesthood had been established, putting limitations on the length of his Mass, on his confessional, and his conversations with others. In addition, he could no longer correspond by letter with anyone, and was prohibited from seeing his long-time spiritual director.
This isolation of Padre Pio still did not satisfy his opponents, whose ultimate goal was to have him suspended entirely of his priestly ministry a divinis by Pope Pius XI. They swamped the Holy Office with calumnies and accusations, and its Secretary, Cardinal Merry Del Val, convinced the Pope that such a suspension was necessary. However, two high-ranking cardinals were avid supporters of Padre Pio: they were the Secretary of State Cardinal Gasparri, and Cardinal Sili, Prefect of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the highest court of the Church. Hoping to achieve a consensus on the suspension, Pope Pius convoked a special, secret meeting to discuss the case of Padre Pio.
|Pope Pius XI|
Present at the meeting with the Pope were the above-mentioned cardinals as well as five other cardinal “inquisitors” from the Holy Office. The discussion soon became heated due to the energetic defense of Padre Pio by his two supporters. However, the others remained firm in their opposition to him. The Pope appeared ready to decide in favor of the suspension a divinis, when suddenly there occurred “the most amazing charismatic episode that can be found in the lives of the saints.”
The door to the meeting room opened, and a young Capuchin friar entered. The attendees were bewildered and shocked, since not only was he uninvited, but Swiss guards were supposedly protecting the entranceway. The monk had his hands hidden in the sleeves of his habit, and he seemed to walk with a slight limp. Before anyone could stop or interrogate him, he came directly towards the Pope. When he reached the Holy Father, he kneeled before him and kissed his feet. Then he pronounced these words: “Your Holiness, for the good of the Church do not permit this to occur.” Kissing once again the feet of the Pontiff, he asked for his blessing, arose and left the room.
Just as soon as he departed, all the cardinals, recovering from their amazement, became very agitated. Some of them exited the room to demand from the guards why they had let this monk enter, in spite of the strict prohibitions against visitors. The surprised guards marveled at this, and said that they had not even seen any friar. The cardinals re-entered the room, and the Holy Father, having intuited what must have occurred, immediately suspended the meeting. He commanded them not to speak about the incident. However, with great solicitude he ordered Cardinal Sili to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo. The cardinal was to interrogate the Father Guardian of the Convent as to where Padre Pio was on that day and time, and what he was doing.
|St. Pio of PIetrelcina|
The sister-in-law of Cardinal Sili, the Countess Virginia Salviucci Sili, was a frequent visitor to San Giovanni, had confessed to Padre Pio, and had become one of his spiritual children. Aware of her devotion to the friar, the Cardinal invited her to accompany him on his mission, without telling her a word of what it was about. Upon their arrival at San Giovanni Rotondo, the Father Guardian told the cardinal that Padre Pio had not gone out of the friary that day, and at the time in question he was in the choir reciting the prayers of the daily Office.
Only at a later date did Cardinal Sili tell the Countess Sili the story about the bilocation of Padre Pio to the Pope. She in her turn related it to a priest who was her friend, confessor and a devotee of Padre Pio. His name was also Padre Pio – Padre Pio Dellepiane, of the order of Minims of St. Francis of Paola. The spiritual bond and mutual respect that existed between the two Pio's was such that the friar of San Giovanni Rotondo often recommended penitents to turn to Padre Dellepiane. St. Pio also said of him that although his name was Padre Pio Dellepiane, he was not Padre Pio of the Plains, but Padre Pio of the Peaks! Padre Dellepiane's own Cause for sainthood was opened in 1990, and on May 19, 2018 he was declared Venerable.
Venerable Padre Dellepiane carefully recorded the testimony of the Countess, writing that “I declare with an oath that the following is true.” It is his hand-written report from 1966 that is the basis for the story of the bilocation of Padre Pio to Pope Pius XI. The outcome of the incident is that the suspension a divinis of Padre Pio from the priesthood never occurred. Although the Holy Office continued to persecute Padre Pio for years, the view of the Pope changed and Pius XI began to have a more favorable opinion of him.
|Venerable Padre Pio Dellepiane|
This post is based on material from Chapters 9 and 10 of Renzo Allegri's Padre Pio Il Santo dei Miracoli. Additional information about Padre Dellepiane was obtained from the Internet Here.
Please see my Catholic books about Padre Pio and others Here.