In 2007, Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel was opened along Congressman Eugelio Santiago Rodriguez Jr. Boulevard, in Quezon City. The chapel and center is dedicated to the Italian Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (born Francesco Forgione, 1887-1968), the controversial mystic priest known for his visions and stigmata, miraculous wounds that reflect the injuries by Jesus Christ in his crucifixion. The chapel and center was established and managed by the Philippine Centre for Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Inc. (SPCR), which has been campaigning for the canonization of Padre Pio since its founding in 1983. Masses and other holy sacraments are administered by Capuchin priests, from the Bahay Capuchino, the Provincial Curia of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in the Philippines, located in the Santa Mesa Heights district of Quezon City.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was best known as Padre Pio, in life. In his youth, Francesco was said to already received several divine visions, which prompted him to enter the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum; O.F.M.Cap.), in 1903. The young Francesco chose to join the Convento dei Cappuccini (Convento Santuario Santa Maria delle Grazie) in Morcone, Italy, after listening to the preaching of a young Capuchin monk in his hometown of Pietrelcina. As a Capuchin monk, Francesco took the name of Pio, after the Roman Pope Pius I (died c. 155), whose relic is in enshrined at the Santa Anna Chapel in Pietrelcina. From 1910 to 1918, Padre Pio began to experience stigmata wounds at the palm of his hands, representing the nails driven into Jesus. It is believed that each time Pio’s stigmata bled, the blood would smell of roses. Because of his stigmata, Padre Pio was garnering too much attention and adoration from the public that led to the Vatican banning him from saying mass, from 1920 to 1933. Aside from his stigmata and visions, Padre Pio experienced a transverberation in 1918, which was a pain in his side that represented the spear thrust into Jesus’s ribs. Padre Pio was also known to have the gift of healing and prophesy.
Immediately after the death, there was already a movement to have him canonized. And in 1982, the Vatican opening the investigations to Padre Pio’s canonization, which lead to the 1983 formation of the Philippine Centre for Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Inc. (SPCR). And in 1999, Padre Pio was beatified by Pope John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005), whom Padre Pio had prophesize would become pope in 1947. And 2002, Padre Pio was canonized as a saint, and declare a patron saint Italy, adolescents, civil defense volunteers, and relief from stress.
To celebrate the canonization of Saint Pio da Pietrelcina, a shrine was built in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, where Padre Pio lived from 1916 to his death in 1968. The Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was designed the German architect, Renzo Piano (born 1937), and opened in 2004. The body of Padre Pio was moved from the Convento dei Cappuccini’s church and transferred to a crypt beneath the altar of the shrine, with a lifelike image of the deceased Padre Pio atop the altar.
Beside the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina is the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for Relief of Suffering), which Padre Pio started as a clinic in 1925, and later established as scientific research hospital in 1956. In front of the hospital is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace) of the Convento dei Cappuccini, Padre Pio’s home for 52 years.
In 2007, the SPCR opened the Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel along E. Rodriguez, Jr. Boulevard, where pilgrims could submit prayers for Saint Pio’s intercession. The chapel’s design is based on the modern structure of the Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo, which was designed by Arch. Gentile of Boiano in 1956, and completed in 1959. The chapel is a duly recognized as one of the eleven centers under the supervision of the Capuchin Friars of Our Lady of Grace Friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.
Inside the Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel are several relics of Padre Pio; including his hair, habit, and gloves and gauzes with blood stains; which are displayed in the chapel as well as the Father Alessio Parente Patio, behind the chapel. Rev. Fr. Alessio Parente (1933-2000) was an Italian Capuchin priest, from the province of Montefusco, and he was assigned as Padre Pio’s personal assistant, from 1965 to 1968. After the death of Padre Pio, Fr. Parente devoted the rest of his life to promote the good works of Padre Pio, and campaign for his canonization. Fr. Parente died in January 2000, seven months after the beatification of Padre Pio.
Back at the chapel, there is a special sound proof room for families and their children, so that they will not distract the devotees and the intercession prayer groups. The room was named after Mrs. Vera Morabito Calandra (1934-2004), who was one of the founders of the Philippine Centre for Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in 1983, as well as the National Centre for Padre Pio in Barto, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Throughout the Calandra Room and the chapel are on display hundreds testimonial letters of many devotees, whose prayers were answered; including those of noted celebrities and political figures.
Behind the Calandra Room is a multi-purpose hall that is named after Bishop Jesus Juan Acosta Sison (1918-2004), the bishop emeritus of the Tarlac Province. Bishop Sison was crucial to the formation of the Philippine Centre for Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, by his introduction of the Italian Caphucins to the local devotees, who in turn donated the first relic of Padre Pio’s glove to the center.
Aside from the chapel, there are many devotional areas within the compound, including two Votive Candle Rooms, where devotees light Votive Candles in prayer for Saint Pio’s intercession. The first votive candle room is located near the entrance to the chapel, whereas the second votive candle room can be found at the northeastern end of the chapel’s plaza garden.
Pilgrims can also purchase souvenirs and bottles of holy water at the gift shop, beside the Garden Angel Aviary. The small aviary of local bird species was named after Padre Pio’s devotion to the Archangel Michael, and correlating the flight of birds with angel wings. At the plaza garden outside the chapel, there are hundreds of domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica) and domenstic doves (Streptopelia risoria), which devotees can feed and have pictures with.
Aside from souvenirs and holy water, pilgrims can purchase rosaries at the Gift Shop, and participate in the daily novena prayers at the chapel. After the novena, devotees hang their rosaries on the windows and fences of the chapel compound, as a symbol of their faith that their prayers will be answered. Through the years, the center has collected thousands of these rosaries and had them made into lamps in the plaza. And starting in 2016, the center presented their own Christmas Tree made of hundreds of the rosaries. Padre Pio was known to pray the rosary daily, with a special consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary every first Saturday of the month. Padre Pio also was devoted to Our Lady of Fátima, who appeared before the children Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos (1907-2005), Francisco de Jesus Marto (1908-1919), and Jacinta de Jesus Marto (1910-1920) in 1917, Fátima, Portugal; a little less than a year after Padre Pio enter the Capuchin monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo.
At the Saint Pio Chapel Plaza garden, there is a “hall of saints” dedicated to the Franciscan and Capuchin saints, and was installed between 2013 and 2014. At the center is the Saint Pio de Pietrelcina, based on a sculpture by Nicola Arrighini (1905-1977), found at the Santa Maria delle Grazie. Beside Padre Pio is the Italian San Francesco d’Assisi (born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, 1181-1226), founder of the Franciscan order and patron saint of nature. Next is the image of the Italian Santa Clara d’Assisi (born Chiara Offreduccio, 1194-1253), cofounder of the Franciscan Ordo sanctae Clarae and patron saint for good weather. At last on the western end of the “hall” is the Portuguese Franciscan Santo António de Pádua (born Fernando Martins de Bulhões; 1195-1231), patron saint of finding lost items. And at the east end of the “hall” is the Portuguese São Roque (1348-1379), patron saint of protection and healing from disease.
Another 2013-2014 addition to the plaza garden is the statue of Our Lady of Graces (Italian: Madonna delle Grazie or Nostra Signora delle Grazie), which is based on the 1412 Marian apparition in Faenza, Italy. Although the Our Lady of Grace is a medieval incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary that started as the Our Lady of Ipswich in 1152, England; the Italian manifestation of the Virgin Mary made her devotion close to the Capuchin friars, with their 1525 establishment in the province of Marche, Italy. There is also another sculpture of Our Lady of Graces atop the chapel, which is an exact replica of the 1959 marble statue by Antonio Bassi (1889-1965), at the Capuchin church in San Giovanni Rotondo.
After opening in 2007, the Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel went through a major renovation between the years of 2011 to 2014; which saw the construction of new facilities and the installation of many new sculptures throughout the compound. Many of these new statues are images of Padre Pio, which are replicas of other noted working in churches around the world. At the end of the hallway between the chapel and center’s offices is a sculpture of Padre Pio holding the rosary, which is based on the artwork found at the Santa Maria Madre di Dio a Fornacelle, in Italy. And at the plaza garden is a copy of the Padre Pio holding a cross; which is based on an image found at the Saint Padre Pio Church, in Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada.
Distributed around the plaza garden of the chapel are the fourteen bas-relief scenes of the Lenten Via Crucis (Way of the Cross); which features fourteen events of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, starting with the sentencing of death Jesus by the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:13-25 and John 19:1-16) and ending with the burial of Jesus at the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42, Luke 23:50-56, Mark 15:42-47, and Matthew 27:57-61). These bas-relief works are replicas of the Via Crucis Monumentale by the Italian sculptor, Francesco Messina (1900-1995), which he completed between 1968 and 1981, near the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In reverence to Padre Pio, Messina sculpts him as Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the Cross (Luke 23:26), in the fifth station.
Later the Via Crucis was expanded to sixteen stations by 2013, with the addition of Jesus’ suffering at Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-50 and Luke 44-22:43) and the Resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-20, Luke 24:1-12, Mark 16:1-8, and Matthew 28:1-20). Most of the reproduction sculptures were created by the Black Nazarene Enterprises, along Colonel Venancio “Bonny” Merioles Serrano Avenue, in Quezon City. The Black Nazarene company also reproduced their Via Crucis Monumentale for the Holy Spirit Parish, in the BF Homes subdivision, Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City.
Part of the Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel’s Lenten traditions is that the devotees pick up a wooden cross, and recite the Via Crucis from station to station, every Good Friday of the Semana Santa (Holy Week). There are three sizes of cross available for pilgrims, with the largest and heavies often assigned to the men, the medium sized pieces for women, and the small pieces for children and the elderly. With the inclusion of the fifteenth station, the faithful return their crosses to the racks, before completing the final station of the Resurrection.
At the north corner of the Father Alessio Parente Patio is an altar and sculpture of Saint Francis of Assisi, which signifies the entrance to the St. Francis Chapel. Completed in 2013, the chapel is built in a piled stone style, to represent the simple Porziuncola Chapel St. Francis rebuilt after his 1224 fasting in Mount La Verna. In that small chapel, St. Francis would fond the Franciscan Order (Ordo Fratrum Minorum) and Order of Saint Clare (Ordo sanctae Clarae), and he would also pass away in. The redesigned and redecorated Porziuncola Chapel can be found inside the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Assisi, Italy.
Inside the Saint Francis Chapel are many symbols of the Franciscan order as well as a central image of Christ Triumphant enthroned by Saint Francis and Saint Pio. Above the entrance is the Franciscan Cross, with the hands of Jesus and Saint Francis crossing, and exposing the wounds of Christ and the stigmata St. Francis. On a self is the image of Saint Michael, which refers not just Padre Pio’s devotion to the archangel, but to the Franciscan practice of “St. Michael’s Lent” based on St. Francis’ dedication of August to September forty days of fasting to the seraphim. Beside the image of St. Michael is a replica of the Romanesque San Damian Cross, to which St. Francis was praying to when he received a vision to rebuild the Church.
Also inside the St. Francis Chapel are two painting by the Italian symbolist artist, Luigi Scapini (born 1946), which depicts two episodes of Saint Francis’ life. The first shows the saint fasting and meditating in Mount La Verna, in 1224, and received the stigmata from an angel. The second features the saints receiving visions from God, which leads him to with his song “The Canticle of the Sun” (Laudes Creaturarum, Praise of the Creatures), which he writes also in 1224. The paintings were donated by Scapini to the Philippine Centre for Saint Pio of Pietrelcina after the beatification of Padre Pio.
Beside the Saint Francis Chapel is a meditation rooms called the Il Luogo Sacro (Sacred Place), which was completed in 2012. Inside the Il Luogo Sacro is a replica of the body of Padre Pio, as it is presented at the altar of the Saint Pio Shrine in Italy. Beside the Padre Pio image is a scene of Virgin Mary praying over the dead body of Jesus Christ, while lying on replica of the Shroud of Turin. This scene illustrates how the wounds of Christ correspond to the marks on the Shroud of Turin, as well as the stigmata of Padre Pio.
Saint Pio de Pietrelcina Chapel is a reflection of the fascination of the faithful and skeptics of Padre Pio starting from his rise to notoriety and onto his death. And after his canonization in 2002, many communities built their chapels in honor of the saint, or renamed their parishes after him; in Metro Manila there is the Padre Pio Parish in Parañaque City; in the Batangas province there are the Parish and National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas City, the St. Pio House of Prayer in the Rosario municipality, and the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity in Lipa City; in the Ilocos Norte province there is the Padre Pio La Verna Shrine in the Pasuquin municipality, in the Ilocos Sur province there is the Padre Pio of Pietrelcina Chapel in the Magsingal municipality; in the Benguet province there is the St. Pio Parish Church in the La Trinidad municipality, in the province of Pangasinan there are the Padre Pio Shrine in the Pozorrubio municipality and the St. Pio Chapel in St. Thomas Aquinas Parish of the Santo Tomas municipality; in the Tarlac province there is the Church of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in the Cacamiling municipality; in the Pampanga province there are the Pio Chapel in the Porac municipality and the Padre Pio Chapel in the Lubao municipality; in the Camarines Sur province there are the Parish of Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina Sabang in the San Jose municipality, St. Pio Parish Church in the Lagonoy municipality, the St. Padre Pio Parish in the municipality of Milaor, and the St. Padre Pio Parish in Naga City, in the Albay province the is the St. Padre Pio Shrine in Legazpi City; in the Catanduanes province there is the St. Padre Pio Mission Church in the San Andres municipality; in the Cebu province there is the San Pio Church in Cebu City; in the Negros Oriental province there is Padre Pio Shrine of the Bacong municipality, in the Negros Occidental province there is the Sanctuario De San Padre Pio and the Grotto of St. Padre Pio of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Parish in Bacolod City, in the Oriental Mindoro province there is the St. Padre Pio Mission Area in Calapan City, in the Zamboanga del Sur province there is the St. Padre Pio Spirituality Centre of Zamboanga City; in the Davao del Sur province there are the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Formation House and the St. Pio Panacan Chapel of Davao City, and in the Surigao del Sur province there is the St. Pio Chapel and Sustainable Agriculture Apostolate in Tandag City.