In the Footsteps of Padre Pio
A Remarkable Pilgrimage
(The following story was written by a pilgrim who attended the Pilgrimage to Rome for the Beatification of Padre Pio. Our Lady’s Apostolate is now planning another Pilgrimage to Rome. Call our toll-free number listed in this Newsletter for more information on Pilgrimages.)
Our Lady’s Apostolate welcomed 100 pilgrims on its Rome Pilgrimage, highlighted by the Beatification of Padre Pio. On Sunday, May 2, 1999, at 6:00 a.m., the pilgrims got on chartered buses at two different hotels heading into the heart of Rome for what was to be the main purpose of the 12-day pilgrimage - the Beatification.
Thousands of pilgrims had descended upon the Eternal City for this great and unforgettable event. It was because of this event that hotel accommodations were difficult to obtain and thus our group was divided between two different hotels. Although the ceremony was not scheduled to start until 9:00 a.m., we were advised to leave early because of possible traffic difficulties. Indeed, there was a traffic stop caused by demonstrators protesting the war in Kosovo. Still, we reached our destination, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, well ahead of the scheduled start time.
The Beatification Ceremony was to take place in St. Peter’s Square. Due to the massive number of persons attending, a second site was chosen where the ceremony would be shown on large screens and the Holy Father would come after the ceremony to speak. This second site, St. John Lateran, is the premier Catholic Basilica. It is the oldest Basilica and the adjoining Lateran palace was the original residence of the Popes and the center of the government of the Church for one thousand years.
Hundreds of thousands arrived for this event! Expressions of gratitude were heard and could be seen on the faces of many present. Gratitude to Almighty God, to Our Lady, to Padre Pio, for having been granted the gift of being present at such an occasion. Tears could be seen in the eyes of many as the beloved Padre Pio was beatified. One could only wonder how many present may have personally met this Holy Priest (as our own Father Gruner did), or attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by him, or perhaps had been granted absolution in the confessional by God through him. So many lives touched in some way by this chosen instrument of God. And so it was on this day, with so many present, that Padre Pio became Blessed Padre Pio.
Our early arrival and long wait paid off in two ways, our close proximity to the large screens, and to the Holy Father when he arrived. Pope John Paul II came by helicopter from St. Peter’s Square, and went by popemobile from the helicopter landing area to the Basilica. The path taken by his vehicle brought him within twenty feet of where I was standing and many of our group were even closer. I had the feeling of being able to reach out and almost touch him.