Msgr. Robert Ritchie shared an uplifting thought about the visit of the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina to St. Patrick’s Cathedral this coming weekend.
Recalling the years when an annual Mass was offered in the cathedral in anticipation of the Capuchin Franciscan friar’s eventual canonization, which came in 2002, Msgr. Ritchie said, “In a sense, this visit is a result of a lot of years of prayer.”
“We’re looking forward to welcoming him,” said Msgr. Ritchie, the cathedral’s rector, in a phone interview Monday.
Msgr. Ritchie easily ticked off the names of saints whose relics have visited St. Patrick’s, including St. John Bosco, St. Maria Goretti, St. Teresa of Kolkata, universally known as Mother Teresa, and St. Therese of Lisieux. All but St. Therese’s relics visited the cathedral during monsignor’s tenure, which began in 2006.
Recognizing Padre Pio’s immense popularity in his native Italy, Msgr. Ritchie said, “We’re excited. This is a good devotion for the people of New York.
“A lot of people have a great devotion to him. This makes it even better,” he said.
The Archdiocese of New York leg kicks off the second phase of a national tour to visit 11 archdioceses and dioceses in 10 states over three weeks before the relics return to Italy. (The relics visited six dioceses during the first phase in May and June.)
A concert by the Sistine Chapel Choir at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, will precede a welcome reception for the relics at the cathedral’s Parish House at 8:30 p.m.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, and Monday, Sept. 18, veneration of the relics will take place in the cathedral from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cardinal Dolan will celebrate the Mass officially welcoming the relics at 10:15 a.m. Sunday. The Sistine Chapel Choir will provide music, and seating will be limited.
Other cathedral Masses honoring St. Pio will be offered that day at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 8:45 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 4 p.m. (Spanish) and 5:30 p.m. On Monday, Masses will be offered at 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m before Msgr. Ritchie celebrates the official closing Mass at 5:30 p.m.
The three-year-old St. Pio Foundation is sponsoring the tour of the relics. The nonprofit foundation is headed by Luciano Lamonarca, a 39-year-old Westchester resident and native of Italy who serves as president and CEO.
Since the tour’s first phase attracted some 80,000 people to venerate the relics, Lamonarca said he was confident the second phase would double the number of visitors because more dioceses are hosting the relics this time.
The relics being made available for public veneration include a lock of the saint’s hair, his glove, his mantle (cloak), a handkerchief used shortly before his death, as well as two others.
“Those seeing the relics, how touched they are about his spirituality,” Lamonarca said. “He was a saint of our times.”
Indeed, the tour is marking the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio’s birth on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, and the 15th anniversary of his canonization by Pope John Paul II in 2002. The saint died in 1968, and his feast day is Sept. 23.
Padre Pio was known as a mystic with gifts of healing and knowledge. He bore the stigmata, which correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Christ.
Before the relics reach St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the tour will begin at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, where public veneration will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Mass will be offered at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at St. Ann’s Church on Midland Avenue in Yonkers, which is home to a sizeable Italian-American population, said the parish’s pastor, Father Andrew Carrozza, who will celebrate the Mass.
Father Carrozza explained that Padre Pio bore his share of troubles, including the stigmata and “mental and other anguishes,” and yet always remained faithful to his priestly duties.
He called Padre Pio “a wonderful role model for priests, in good times and in bad,” and said “everyone is welcome” to come to St. Ann’s for the Mass honoring the saint.