Pope Francis on Saturday visited Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the stigmata and 50 year of the death of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, or simply Padre Pio.
The 81-yer old Cappuchin friar, venerated the world over for his holiness, simplicity and poverty, was born on 25 May, 1887 in Pietrelcina, and died on 23 September, 1968 in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he started the hospital, “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza,” (Home for Alleviating Suffering).
Perhaps the highlight and the most poignant moment of the Pope’s 17 March pastoral visit was when he entered the children’s cancer ward of the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza”, one of the most advanced medical facilities in Italy.
In his insatiable urge to reach out to the poor, marginalized and the defenceless, Pope Francis went about the ward embracing, kissing and caressing the little ones, their parents, animators and hospital staff.
Here are glimpses of some of the touching moments of this visit.