Italy's Favorite Saint to Be Exhumed

Preservation procedure sparks controversy among some devotees
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2008 2:00 PM CST
San Giovanni Rotondo, ITALY: Picture taken 16 March 2006 of Padre Pio's statues in a souvenirs' shop in San Giovanni Rotondo. (AFP PHOTO / MARIO LAPORTA)   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The body of Padre Pio, one of Italy’s most beloved saints, will be exhumed this year for a “checkup” and to be put on display for public veneration, the Guardian reports. "It is our duty to allow the generations that come after us the ability to venerate and best care for his mortal remains," said the archbishop of Puglia, where the man formally known as Saint Pius is buried.

Although exhumation for the canonized is a standard Vatican procedure, a group claiming to have the support of the saint’s relatives has threatened legal action to stop it. Even 40 years after his death, Padre Pio continues to command extreme respect among Italian Catholics. A poll once found that more of the country’s faithful pray to him than to the Virgin Mary or Jesus.