New book on Padre Pio not an attack, says Catholic journalist

Italian journalist and writer Vittorio Messori warned this week a new book by historian Sergio Luzzatto, “ “Padre Pio. Miracoli e politica nell’ Italia del 900” (Padre Pio. Miracles and Politics in the Italy of the 1900s), is in no sense an attack on the memory of the saint but has instead been sensationalized by the media.

Media reports said the new book would call into question the authenticity of Padre Pio’s stigmata and would reveal “hidden episodes” that would supposed cast doubt on his holiness.  Some reports even suggested the Italian saint was inappropriately involved with a woman and that it was covered up during the process of beatification and canonization.

In an extensive article published by the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera,” Messori said that each one of the accusations discussed by Luzzatto in his book were thoroughly answered by historians and experts years ago.  He called the book “important and serious” and said the media does an injustice by taking excerpts from the 400-page book in an attempt to extrapolate “revelations” and “scandals,” such as the allegation that Padre Pio used chemicals to create the stigmata.

These suspicions, which come especially from the clergy, have been answered not only by the saint’s biographers, but also by the exhaustive investigations by Vatican commissions that carried out the beatification in 1999 and the canonization in 2002, Messori continued.

Therefore, he said, the work “is serious and does not deserve the scandalous headlines; it is a book resulting from years of work and research in different fields.”

Messori noted that Luzzatto’s book fills a void in the information about Padre Pio, who Luzzatto called “the most important Italian of the last century.”  He said it strikes a balance between the excessively pious accounts of the saint’s life on the one hand, and the anti-clerical books that one can find in bookstores.  Luzzatto distances himself from these books, noting that disproportionate criticism of Padre Pio should be avoided.

He said there would be plenty of time to dispute the book’s documentation, “based on primary sources but with a political slant that is evident from the title, which makes the book of interest to the laity but which is foreign to the saint’s perspective and to the majority of his devotees.”

Messori points out that as a non-Christian, Luzzatto does not have a perspective on the spiritual contradictions proper to the Christian.  “In any case, Luzzatto realizes this and writes that ‘Padre Pio is present everywhere,’ since we can no longer overlook the enigmatic presence of a friar who, for half a century, never left a poor convent in the heart of southern Italy.

Lastly, after reflecting on so many surprising and miraculous episodes from the life of the saint, Messori concludes with a question and an answer: “What to do with this kind of a person? Study his history, yes, but with the awareness that there is a meta-history here that, to use the words of the Gospel, ‘is revealed to the humble and simple and hidden from learned of this world’.”

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