Mystery of Padre Pio┤s Stigmata Analyzed by Scientist
Congress in Rome Focuses on Capuchin┤s Wounds
ROME,--- Critics who claim that the stigmata of the likes of Padre Pio are not authentic, have a tough opponent to contend with: modern science.
That was the crux of a message delivered by Dr. Nicola Silvestri to a conference this week in Rome. Silvestri is assistant director of health of the House for the Relief of Suffering, the hospital founded by the Capuchin friar in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Silvestri talked about stigmata at the international congress "Padre Pio, the Man, the Christian, the Saint." The congress was held at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum on Tuesday and Wednesday.
During his address to the congress, Cardinal JosÚ Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, explained that the essence of Padre Pio┤s sanctity was "the reality of the cross."
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) once wrote that "the more Jesus wishes to raise a soul to perfection, the more the cross of tribulation increases," the cardinal said. And the stigmata -- the wounds that resemble those suffered by Jesus during his crucifixion -- were among the Capuchin┤s greatest physical sufferings.
"From the medical point of view, the stigmata cannot be considered as wounds or sores, because they do not heal even when treated," Dr. Silvestri explained. "They neither become infected nor do they decompose; they do not degenerate in necrosis, and do not exude a bad odor. They bleed and remain constant and unaltered for years, against all laws of nature."
The stigmata "are the exact reproduction, including the location, of Jesus┤ wounds, according to studies of the holy Shroud" of Turin, Silvestri continued.
He said the location of the side wound refutes "the theory of those who regard them [stigmata] as the product of suggestion, when an individual prays before a crucifix. Indeed, until the 17th century, crucifixes had the wound on the right side, while stigmata appeared on the left side."
"The Church is strict when it comes to these phenomena," the scientist stressed. "It has pronounced itself in a rather limited number of cases only after rigorous studies and controls by doctors and theologians."
The Church exacts certain conditions before recognizing the validity of stigmata. The wounds must all appear at the same time; they must cause considerable modification of the tissues; they must remain unaltered despite medical treatment; they must cause hemorrhages; and they must not result in infections or suppuration, or in instant and perfect healing.
There are at least 80 saints and blessed whose stigmata have been validly documented, the doctor said. Although the Church recognizes the phenomenon, it does not oblige the faithful to believe in it as a dogmatic or doctrinal fact.
Silvestri explained that there are cases of false stigmata, especially in individuals who suffer from hysteria and cause these wounds in themselves.
In regard to the nature of the stigmata, he said that "a multiplicity of theories have been proposed by different schools that attempt to deny the supernatural character of the stigmata."
"However, none of these hypotheses can stand up to objective and scientifically rigorous criticism," Silvestri said. "Neither medicine nor psychology, nor intransigent positivists like Jean-Baptiste Dumas, have been able to deny the reality of the phenomenon."
"If the stigmata depended on natural forces, they would have appeared in all ages and the description would be found in medical literature," he added. "However, it was not until the 12th century, when they appeared in St. Francis┤ body, that there was reference to the stigmata."
"By their internal and external characteristics, the real stigmata studied to date are outside all the laws that regulate physiopathology and must be considered as phenomena of a supernatural character," Silvestri concluded.
Stigmata is spontaneous manifestation of bloody wounds on a person's hands, feet, forehead and back - similar to the wounds of the crucified Jesus.
Those who describe stigmata categorize these experiences as divine or mystical.
Healing is usually reported within a few hours after the wounds appear.
Some people who suffer from stigmata report feels of sadness, depression, weakness, their body in physical pain, prior to the bleeding.
The blood will pour forth from openings on the body for an unknown amount of time -then just as suddenly disappear and heal.
The openings can be just in one area of the body - such as the hands or feet - or in several areas of the body at the same time.
The person is almost always in pain and discomfort when this occurs.
Though some people feel stigmata is psychosomatically induced. This is rarely the case.
Stigmata can affect women as well as men.
The blood may be of a different type than the person who is having the experience.
Saint Francis of Assisi
In 1224 Saint Francis of Assisi had a vision. He formed a friare in the town of Maria degli Angeli near Assasi. While praying outside of a cave on his 40th day of retreat he received stigmata. Nails appeared in his wounds.
Padre Pio..... His wounds bled daily for 50 years.
On October 22, 1918, Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual advisor, Padre Benedetto, describing how he received the stigmata. "On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass, I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep.
All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash.
"While this was taking place, I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. The sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest.
"The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands,
feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue
to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially
from Thursday evening until Saturday.
(Letters 1, No. 511).
HOMEPAGE God sows the seeds in the 20th Century