Friday, April 25, 2008

Padre Pio's Corpse Exhumed, Displayed in Glass Coffin after 40 Years in the Grave. Really.

Its not everyday that one gets news of an exhumed corpse being exhibited to hordes of tourists in a glass coffin; today, just such news came my way.

Yesterday, the corpse of Padre Pio was put on display in an elaborate glass-and-marble coffin after his body was removed from the vault in which had resided for 40 (!!!) years after his death at 81 years of age. His body was too far decayed, it is reported, to be exhibited without enhancement; his head is covered with a life-like silicon mask prepared by the company that supplies figures for Madame Tussauds; his true fingers are visible, blackened and half-hidden by half gloves. Reportedly, his hands do not bear the stigmata they often did in life.

He was exhumed, reports The Independent, "so the condition of the body could be ascertained before being consigned to its permanent home in a crypt under the town's vast modern church." (The report continues: "Officials who examined the corpse said it was in 'fair condition', apart from the head, much of which had been reduced to bare bone. A team of medical scientists and biochemists has been working since then to restore the corpse to a presentable condition.")

Padre Pio was an interesting and complex figure; In his time, he had a cult-like following that revered him as a saint, while others accused him of being a fake, even going so far as to accuse him of using carbolic acid to create the stigmata he famously displayed on his hands and feet. Pope John Paul II canonized him into sainthood in 2002.

The Los Angeles Times has a great article on this, from which this video (and much of the information in this post) is drawn; read it here.

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