Mystery of Padre Pio´s Stigmata Analyzed by Scientist
Congress in Rome Focuses on Capuchin´s Wounds
ROME, APRIL 12, 2002 (Zenit.org).- 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.
Interest in the life of Padre Pio (born Francesco Forgione) has heightened
as his Oct. 6 canonization approaches.( Note from Joyce: I thought Padre
Pio's canonization was set for June 16???)
During his address to the congress, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins,
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
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
Silvestri explained that there are cases of false stigmata, especially
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
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.
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