By Jessica Easthope
Crowds gathered outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, Monday to venerate five of Saint Pio’s relics.
“When people are in proximity of the relics they find an overwhelming sense of hope and peace and acceptance of what God’s will means,” said Luciano LaMonarca, the founder and CEO of the St. Pio Foundation.
For the last eight years Luciano has been educating the public about Saint Pio, or as many call him Padre Pio. He was an Italian priest most known for the stigmata he bore, five wounds in the same places where Jesus was nailed to the cross and pierced during his crucifixion that appeared on his body in 1918.
The relics on display for veneration include scabs from his wounds, gauze stained with his blood, locks of his hair, a piece of his mantle and a handkerchief drenched in his sweat.
“People come with an overwhelming sense of faith and devotion,” said Luciano. “Because this is their time when they can say I have been so close to Padre Pio the best I could.”
The relics exhibit is part of the “I Embrace You” tour that started in 2017. This is the first time they are on display for veneration in the Archdiocese of Newark. The relics invoked an emotional response, especially from friends Daria Waltz and Kathleen Latz.
“I feel like he’s my guardian angel. I have total faith that he’s there and he’s watching over me,” Daria said.
“He is an amazing intercessor and when you can feel heaven touch earth and know how powerful they are working for you it’s the mystery of faith,” said Katheleen.
Luciano says many come to the exhibit out of curiosity, but that real devotion is when people seek out more.
“Always look up more, study, learn about who Padre Pio was, the relics are just the beginning of a journey,” he said.
The St. Pio foundation estimates more than one million people have seen these relics. When they leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart they’ll travel to 23 more cities this year.