Padre Pio 'faked his stigmata with acid'

Padre Pio, the friar with fingerless gloves whose image is found on a million Catholic key chains; who was canonised before 200,000 ecstatic pilgrims five years ago, was a charlatan who deliberately mutilated himself with acid to give the appearance of bearing the stigmata of Christ, according to evidence to be published next week.

The Italian historian Sergio Luzzatto will release Padre Pio, Miracles and politics in 20th century Italy – a book producing new evidence from Vatican archives, which he says proves that the charismatic friar secretly procured carbolic acid with which to burn his hands, feet and sides.

The allegations are not new: two successive popes regarded Padre Pio as a fraud. By 1920, when Pio was 33 and was already exhibiting his scars before masses of pilgrims, the church was worried that his cult was spinning out of control. Reports commissioned by the church claimed Pio regularly scourged himself with a metal-tipped whip, and had sex with women twice a week. For many years Pio was banned from celebrating mass in public.

Of particular concern to the church were the ugly, weeping wounds which Pio concealed under those fingerless gloves. The friar claimed that he had received the stigmata of Christ – wounds to his hands, feet and side like those suffered by Christ during his crucifixion – at the culmination of a mystical seizure.

A doctor sent by the Vatican to examine them concluded that the wounds were probably caused and maintained artificially. To test the hypothesis he bound the wounds and sealed the bandage to prevent it being tampered with. But on examination a month later the doctor was nonplussed to find that the wounds had failed to heal.

Yet now Mr Luzzatto claims to have unearthed documents that prove beyond reasonable doubt that the friar was a trickster.

In the summer of 1919, the 28-year-old cousin of a pharmacist in the southern city of Foggia, a deeply religious young woman called Maria de Vito, made the pilgrimage to Pio's church, San Giovanni. The pharmacist told his local bishop, Mgr Salvatore Bella, "When she returned to Foggia she brought the greetings of Padre Pio and asked me in his name, and in strict secrecy, for carbolic acid, telling me that Padre Pio had need of it, and giving me the little bottle he had given her, capacity 100g, and with a skull and crossbones."

The pharmacist jumped to what Mr Luzzatto believes is the right conclusion. "My thought was that the carbolic acid could be used by Padre Pio to procure or further irritate wounds on his hands."

Mr Luzzatto cites the note written by Pio to the young woman, Maria de Vito, "though much more neatly than his normal hand".

Invoking the blessings of Jesus, Pio writes baldly: "I am in need of 200g or 300g of carbolic acid for sterilising. I pray you to send it to me on Sunday." This, claims Mr Luzzatto, is the smoking gun. If he had really needed the acid for sterilising purposes, he demands, "why did he proceed in such an oblique manner?"

Mr Luzzatto's claims, splashed across a full page of Corriere della Sera, Italy's best-selling daily, were furiously denounced by Pietro Siffi, president of the Catholic Anti-defamation League. The "presumed proofs are absolutely false," he said. "According to Catholic doctrine, canonisation involves the infallibility of the pope."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month