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Padre Pio the Flying Monk

Padre Pio was canonised on June 16, 2002, by Pope John Paul II.

Not every pope had been so convinced of his saintliness. From 1931 to 1933, the Vatican banned the Capuchin from saying Mass in public or hearing confessions and from all contact with worshippers. John XXIII, elected in 1958, set spies on him.

According to the accounts embraced by believers, Pio's life was a continuous succession of miracles. He had stigmata.  He could fly.  He even beat the devil at wrestling.  He could be in two places at the one time (bilocation).

Bi-location enabled Pio to visit the United States and the Holy Land without leaving San Giovanni.  The Voice of Padre Pio relates that he returned from one flying visit to Palestine disgruntled by his discovery that: "The room of the Last Supper is looked after by Moslems!"

His most famous flights came during World War Two when American planes were sent to pulverize San Giovanni and they saw a monk in full robes arrowing towards them at 10,000 feet as they began their bombing run. Reasonably enough, they turned tail and headed home.

Pio was a strong advocate of prayers for the Holy Souls, some of whom visited him from Purgatory to express thanks.

The devil in physical shape assaulted him frequently, once flinging him across a bedroom. But the devil  never got the better of the defender of faith.

The Vatican's skeptical attitude towards Pio was transformed with the election of John Paul II in 1978.  Pio had heard the young Fr Karol Wojtyla's confession as far back as 1947. Wojtyla came to the papacy profoundly convinced that God was working in the world through the Italian monk.

In 1982, John Paul opened a formal inquiry into Pio's possible sainthood. In 1990, the Vatican declared him a Servant of God; in 1997, he was declared Venerable; in 1999, Blessed; and in 2002, a saint.

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