Pilgrims loot Rome homes 'to pay for Padre Pio trip'

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A monk prays in front of the exhumed body of mystic saint Padre Pio. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
11:38 CET+01:00
They travelled up to Rome from Puglia to see the remains of Italy’s beloved saint, Padre Pio...but instead they broke one of the 10 commandments.

‘Thou shall not steal’ was clearly the furthest thing from the minds of the couple from Bari when they decided to loot two holidays homes and flee without paying the bill for their stay.

All this after supposedly seeing Saint Padre Pio’s body, which is on display in Rome until February 11th after being temporarily moved to the capital from a town in Puglia last week as part of the Holy Year, or Jubilee of Mercy, celebrations.

The couple were arrested on Sunday afternoon, allegedly carrying bags of stolen goods from the two properties they rented during their stay, Il Messaggero reported.

And they clearly seized on the “mercy” theme of the Holy Year in an attempt to atone for their sins, asking a court on Monday to show them leniency because “they needed the money to pay for their Padre Pio pilgrimage”.

Padre Pio’s 50-year-old corpse was transferred from San Giovanni Rotondo last week, with thousands of pilgrims lining the streets as the body was brought to Saint Peter’s Basilica on Friday.

His remains, which were exhumed from a crypt and given a facial reconstruction in 2008, were blessed by Pope Francis on Sunday.

Pio was revered during his lifetime (1887-1968) and his popularity has continued to grow since his death, particularly in Italy, where mini-statues and pictures of the mystical Capuchin friar are ubiquitous.

Canonized under Pope John-Paul II, Pio's brand of popular, mystical Catholicism was less popular with the Vatican authorities when he was alive.

He regularly recounted having experienced both heavenly and diabolic visions, other clerics claimed to have witnessed him levitating in ecstasy and he was frequently associated with apparently miraculous recoveries among the seriously ill.

From the age of 31 until the end of his life he regularly presented with stigmata - body marks corresponding to the wounds Jesus Christ received during his crucifixion, according to biblical accounts.

One sceptic wrote a book suggesting Pio maintained his wounds with acid while a prominent doctor theorized that he suffered from a rare form of haemophilia.

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While Pio was regarded with suspicion by popes John XXIII and Paul VI, he was admired by Polish pope John Paul II, who confessed to the friar when he was a young priest.

And Francis has further promoted the veneration of Padre Pio, encouraging the creation of prayer groups dedicated to him when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Pio's legend was further enhanced after his death when his body was exhumed and allegedly found to be in remarkably good condition.

There were, however, no signs of any stigmata and his skull had become exposed, which resulted in a silicon face mask being made for him.

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