BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 16:22 GMT
Italy exhumes revered monk's body
File image October 14, 2006 of believers praying during a mass for Saint Padre Pio's faithful in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Padre Pio drew huge crowds in life and in death
The body of a revered Italian monk has been exhumed ahead of being put on public display.

The body of Padre Pio, who died 40 years ago and was later made a saint, will be prepared by experts before being placed in a glass coffin.

The body was in "fair" condition, a Church statement said.

An archbishop who witnessed the exhumation near the southern Italian town of Foggia said his nails looked as if they had just undergone a manicure.

The body had been conserved well, said Archbishop Domenico D'Ambrosio.

''As soon as we got inside the tomb we could clearly make out the beard. The top part of the skull is partly skeletal but the chin is perfect and the rest of the body is well preserved," he said.

"If Padre Pio allows me, I might say he looks as though he just had a manicure."


The planned exhumation had been criticised by some relatives and devotees, who did not want the body removed from its resting place.

Padre Pio's body had been buried in a crypt at Santa Maria delle Grazie church in San Giovanni Rotondo, beside the friary where he had lived for most of his 81 years.

It was exhumed during a three-hour service that ended after midnight. It is due to go on display at the end of April, allowing his devotees to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

Padre Pio, a monk from the Capuchin order, was said to have had stigmata - wounds like those suffered by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion - on his hands, feet and side. They reputedly bled frequently throughout his adult life.

Officials said there was no initial sign of the stigmata after his exhumation. Padre Pio remains a revered figure among many Catholics. Seven million people visit his tomb every year.

He was born Francesco Forgione in 1887, and was said to have experienced the "stigmata" wounds as a young man of 23. His followers and friends believe he performed hundreds of healings and other miracles during his life.

For years the Vatican opposed the growth of the popular following around Padre Pio, but then changed its attitude, with Pope John Paul II granting him the honour of sainthood in front of huge crowds at the Vatican.

Among his reputed powers were the prediction of future events, being seen in two places at once, and the ability to know people's sins before they had confessed them. He was also said to have emitted the scent of flowers.

Critics have claimed that he was a fraud who may have used acid to create the stigmata wounds on his hands, but the Church has repeatedly denied these suggestions.

Archbishop describes the condition of remains

Controversial monk made saint
16 Jun 02 |  Europe
Padre Pio TV goes on air
11 Feb 02 |  Entertainment
Country profile: Vatican
25 Mar 03 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific