By Debora Donnini
For the centenary of the appearance of the stigmata of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and on the 50th anniversary of his death, on Saturday 17 March Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to Pietrelcina, in the diocese of Benevento, and to San Giovanni Rotondo , in the Diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. On Thursday the Vatican Press Office published the updated program of the journey of Pope Francis to the central places in the life of Padre Pio.
The Pope will arrive by helicopter in Pietrelcina at 8 am: first there will be a brief prayer stop in the "Saint Francis" Chapel, then a meeting with the faithful in the square in front of the liturgical hall of Piana Romana. Finally he will greet the Capuchin community of Pietrelcina.
San Giovanni Rotondo
At 9.30 am, he will go to San Giovanni Rotondo. The first appointment is a hospital visit to the "Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza". From the square in front of the hospital, the Holy Father will greet and bless the sick from his car, then he will meet sick children. The Pope will then travel to a Marian sanctuary where he will greet the Community of Capuchins and venerate the body of Saint Pio and the Crucifix of the Stigmata. Then there will be the Eucharistic Concelebration in the churchyard of the Church of Saint Pio. Pope Francis is due back in the Vatican at around 2pm Italian time.