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 published: 2007-03-23

The Dawn of Spring in Rome

Roman notes: Belmontina, Padre Pio, and the Pontifical Council for the Laity


Suelta de palomas en San Pedro

Doves released at St. Peter’s

Weiße Tauben als Zeichen des Friedens...

Foto: Osservartore Romano © 2007


„Belmontina“ sobre el techo del Santuario

“Belmontina” on the roof of the Shrine

“Belmontina” auf dem Dach des Heiligtums


Se siente en casa...

She feels at home

Sie fühlt sich schon ganz zu Hause


Llegada de las reliquias del Padre Pio

Arrival of the relics of Father Pio

Ankunft der Reliquien von Pater Pio


Oración en el Santuario

Prayer in the Shrine

Gebet im Heiligtum


Procesión a la parroquia

Procession to the parish church

Prozession zur Pfarrkirche

Fotos: Nuño © 2007


ROME, Francisco Nuño. For almost a week, beginning the morning of Sunday, March 11th, a white dove has accompanied us in Belmonte. Since we do not know where it came from nor where it is going next, we have welcomed it – like a good custodian of the Shrine. I call it "Belmontina" and it seems to like the place and the name we have given it.

I do not know anything about doves although I affectionately remember my uncle Pepe, my father’s brother, and the dovecot he had in his town, in the heights of the Sierra Nevada in Granada, filled with dozens of white doves. Despite my lack of experience in these matters, I have the feeling that our "Belmontina" came to the grounds of Schoenstatt in Rome somewhat lost, tired and looking for shelter. During the first four or five days it did not move from the Shrine. Yesterday I noticed that it made excursions to tiled roofs and neighboring trees, although by evening, when the sun sets, it returns to a favorite place on the tile roof of the Shrine. That is where it spends the night, in the back corner of the gutter that gathers the rain water from the building.

Release of doves at St. Peter’s

While worrying about the "lost dove which was found in the church", we remembered that Pope Benedict XVI released two white doves on Sunday, January 28th 2007 at the conclusion of the Angelus. Two youths representing the Italian Youth of Catholic Action gave him the two doves at the end of the month of prayer (January) for world peace. It was a beautiful gesture that was caught by television cameras and many people who gathered at St. Peter’s Square on that day to pray the Angelus with him, like so many other Sundays and feast days. I have thought that our "Belmontina" could be one of those two doves. It was lost and tired of flying over the tile roofs of the immense city of Rome for so many days and, having lost its companion, sought a place for shelter and rest. The dove found it here on the small hill of Via do Boccea (number 757) at the crossroad with the Via di Sant Gemma, where the Matri Ecclesiae Shrine is located.

A living picture of the Father’s kindness

Besides this anecdote, Sunday, March 11th was an outstanding day on the calendar of our Roman pilgrimage center. And here I am not referring to the unexpected arrival of "Belmontina" that, from the height of the tile roof of the Shrine, had the opportunity to follow the entire event to which I am referring. Father Federico, pastor of Santa Gemma, wanted the official reception of the relics of Saint Padre Pio to solemnly begin in our Shrine and process to the Church. And in this way, at four o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, a large number of pilgrims, who are devoted to the saint and members of the "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" gathered here. After adoration and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle at the Shrine of our Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt, a rosary procession proceeded to the church with the relics of St. Padre Pio. The afternoon ended in the church with celebration of Holy Mass.

Saint Pio da Pietrelcina (Francesc Forgione), presbyter of the Order of Brothers of the Minor Capuchins, is the Padre Pio, a "very Italian" saint and much to the liking of the Italians. Hundreds of thousands are devoted to this saint and there are also hundreds of thousands of people, spiritual sons and daughters of Padre Pio, who meet regularly in the Italian parishes to pray in the well known "Padre Pio Prayer Groups". During the canonization of the Blessed Pio by John Paul II on June 6th of 2002, more than two million people gathered at St. Peters and the surrounding area. In the official review of this event we could read the reasons that the Church had to bestow the honor of the altars to this Italian priest: "The Church inscribed the Blessed Pio da Petrelcina in the tree of the saints, and proposes a living image of the kindness of the Father, he was a passionate imitator of Jesus Christ and he was a docile instrument of the Holy Spirit at the service of the faithful who are sick in body and in spirit".

A key that opens the heart of God

This follower of Saint Francis of Assisi was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Archdiocese of Benevento, in Appenines to the east of Naples. On January 1907 he made the solemn profession of perpetual vows in the order of the Minor Capuchin Friars and was ordained a priest on August 10, 1910. He was quickly sent to the Convent of San Giovanni Rotondo and he remained there until his death, on September 23, 1968 (one week after the death of our Founding Father!).

On February 20, 1971, just three years after his death, Paul VI addressed the Superiors of the Capuchin Order saying: "Look at the fame he has had, what a worldwide clientele he has gathered around himself! But why? Perhaps it is because he was a philosopher? Was it because he was wise? Because he had the means at his disposal? Or because he celebrated Mass with humility, he confessed from morning to night, and he was, it is difficult to say, a visible representative of the wounds of our Lord? He was a man of prayer and of suffering."

In effect, the ultimate reason for Padre Pio’s apostolic efficacy, the most profound root of so much apostolic fruitfulness is found in that intimate and constant union with God, whose eloquent testimony were the long hours of prayer. Padre Pio liked to repeat: "I am a poor friar who prays" and he was convinced that "prayer is the best weapon we have. It is the key that opens the heart of God". This basic characteristic of his spirituality continues today present in the "Padre Pio Prayer Groups" that he founded and who offer the Church and society an admirable and valuable contribution of unceasing prayer and trust. Padre Pio united prayer with an intense activity of charity toward his neighbor, also visible in the "House of Comfort from Suffering" that was inaugurated on May 5, 1956. Prayer and charity is the concrete synthesis of the teaching of Padre Pio, whose relics passed through the Matri Ecclesiae Shrine of Rome last Sunday afternoon.

Waiting for the Covenant House

A few hours after this event, on Monday the 12th at 11:00 a.m., Anneliese and I had an appointment with the Archbishop Monsignor Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, at the Piazza San Calisto, 16, in the Roman Trastevere. The General Council of our Schoenstatt Work has asked us to be the representatives of our Movement in the Pontifical Council for Laity for the next three years, along with a Sister of Mary who lives in Via Aurelia Antica. Our superiors supported this appointment and we have presented ourselves to Monsignor Rylko on the appointed date. We also had the opportunity to briefly greet the Secretary of the Council, Bishop Monsignor Josef Clemens and the Sub-Secretary, Professor Guzmán, persons whom we have known for some time. The interview with Monsignor Rylko was very personal and cordial. He has a great esteem for our Schoenstatt Family.

Spring is dawning in Rome. We continue to wait for the move to the Casa dell’Alleanza (Covenant House). We live with the tension of waiting and with the joy of the gifts that Divine Providence gives us daily.

Translation: Celina Garza, Harlingen, TX /Christi Jentz, Milwaukee, WI, USA


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