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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 09:33 GMT

World: Europe

Italian monk on path to sainthood

The Vatican certified a miracle was due to Padre Pio

Pope John Paul II has decided to beatify an Italian monk who died 30 years ago and who many already consider a saint.

Padre Pio - born Francesco Forgione - became revered as a holy man after developing wounds on his hands and feet said to mirror those of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.

After his death in 1968, a cult grew up to his memory and his monastery became a popular place of pilgrimage for many Roman Catholics.

He was born into a peasant family in southern Italy 111 years ago. He became a Franciscan monk before developing the stigmata wounds at the age of 31.

In 1947 was visited at his monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo, in southern Italy, by the present Pope, who was then a priest living in Poland.

[ image: Padre Pio's beatification will be one of the fastest in modern times]
Padre Pio's beatification will be one of the fastest in modern times
A long drawn-out official Vatican investigation has now decided to set Padre Pio on the eventual road to full official sainthood.

In a ceremony on Monday, the Pope declared authentic and "extraordinary" the apparently miraculous cure of an Italian woman seven years ago said to involve Padre Pio.

The woman had been hospitalised after a lymph vessel burst, but recovered in a few days after praying to Padre Pio for intervention, the Vatican say.

Padre Pio has already been given the title of 'Venerable' and next May a ceremony will be held in Rome marking his beatification - meaning that his holy qualities have been officially recognised by the Church.

BBC Rome Correspondent David Willey says church bells were rung and fireworks set off in San Giovanni Rotondo as local Catholics celebrated the news.

Many Catholics already regard Padre Pio as their favourite 20th Century saint. Photographs of the bearded monk wearing his brown habit adorn many thousands of homes and even shops and restaurants in Italy.

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