Home for the Relief of Suffering

Padre Pio suffered greatly – both emotionally and physically throughout his entire life.   But as he welcomed those sufferings, he offered them with Christ for saving souls.   However while he was happy to accept suffering himself he had an intense desire to alleviate the suffering of others.   He had a dream, an idea, a goal to help them: To build a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Early in 1940 Padre Pio was in his cell with three good friends, three spiritual ones. Dr Sanguinetti municipal doctor of San Lorenzo in Florence, Dr. Kiswarday a pharmacist from Yugoslavia and Dr. Sanvico a vet from Perugia in Italy.

Padre Pio spoke  “ In every sick person there is Christ who is suffering.   In every poor person there is Christ who is languishing.   In every sick person who is poor Christ is doubly present”.

This is how the idea of the hospital was born.   He pulled from his pocket a small gold coin which had been given to him by an anonymous old lady for his works of charity.   He held it up and said  “I want to make the first donation for the home for the Relief of Suffering” – his hospital – that was what he called it!    Not a hospital – a home – for the relief of suffering.    That same contribution was the first of a great stream of contributions that came flooding in to help.   Some people gave ten or twenty lire – a very small amount - only about one or two old pence.   Others gave millions of lire – but for those in charge of the work the twenty lire were worth as much as the millions.

One day a highly intelligent young English woman named Miss Barbara Ward who was editor of The Economist was in London with the Marquis Parizi when she expressed a wish to meet Padre Pio of whom she had heard so much.    “I will accompany you” he said.

They took the plane to Rome and continued on to San Giovanni Rotondo.   As they approached the monastery, Barbara was surprised to see a priest in charge of twenty men working on the road.   She asked him what they were doing and the priest replied “We are building a very large hospital”.   “How much will it cost?” she asked and he nearly exploded like a bomb.    “Four hundred million lire” he answered.   “Who pays for it?” she asked him.   “Whoever passes by pays” he said. Miss Ward passed by and went to see Padre Pio.

“Everyone in London speaks so highly of you that I have to ask you a favour.”    “Yes the Lord does grant favours” he replied.     “Father I am a Catholic but my fiancé is Protestant.  I would like him to convert to Catholicism”.    Padre Pio answered “If God desires it he will be converted”.     “But Padre Pio, when? “ she asked.    “If God desires it will happen right now”.    Miss Ward returned to London not quite satisfied with Padre Pio’s answer.

To her amazement she found that her fiancé had been baptised a Catholic on the very day, at the very hour that she had asked Padre Pio.   She made the miracle known and begged her fiancé to go to Padre Pio to thank him, and “Remember they are building a hospital and need four hundred million lire”.

Her fiancé was managing director of UNRRA – the United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration – he not only kissed Padre Pio’s hands but also made him this proposition.   “Father” he said “I know you need money, well if you consent to name the Hospital in honour of Fiorello la Guardia, I can help you”.    Fiorello la Guardia, a native of Foggia was former mayor of New York and president of UNRRA.    Padre Pio just shrugged and agreed.

A few days later the fiancé went to America to tell Fiorello la Guardia’s widow that a big hospital was being built in Italy in honour of her late husband and then he told her that he had obtained a sum of four hundred million lire from the UNRRA for the project.

So work proceeded on the building. Padre Pio’s frequent visits to the site brought great joy and encouragement to all.   On the 5th May 1956, the feast of St.Pius, the home was formally inaugurated.

At first the hospital was equipped with 300 beds – now there are well over 1000. In 1957 Pope Pius XII appointed Padre Pio administrator of the hospital – a signal honour never before granted by Holy See.

On the 10th anniversary of the Home Padre Pio spoke to his children.   He looked at all the good that had been achieved in the ‘Home For The Relief Of Suffering’ and he spoke.   “My dear children, to all of you, may the peace and blessings of Our Lord be with you.   My blessed children, I thank you for your generosity, for your sacrifices and for your interest and thoughtfulness.   You have been instruments in God’s hands.   As a token of my gratitude and appreciation I offer my prayers and my suffering for all of you”.

Today the Home for the Relief of Suffering is a thriving hospital at the cutting edge of medical practice, a leader in modern medicine.    Many huge conventions take place there each year with experts drawn from all over the world.   Many major discoveries and great advances in medical practice have been made there.    Many, many people owe their recovery and even their lives to this place, the Home for the Relief of Suffering.

And it’s all the legacy of Padre Pio born out of his love for God and his love for all of God’s people.    He had particular love for those who suffer just as he himself suffered.    He believed that by their suffering they shared in the suffering of Christ himself.

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