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Evelyn Andrews Posted by on October 14, 2017.

Catholic saint’s relics draw thousands to church

A display of St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s relics brought about 3,000 people —some from hundreds of miles away — to Holy Spirit Catholic Church on Northside Drive in Buckhead on Oct. 3, organizers said.

The relics were on a nationwide tour in celebration of the 130th anniversary of St. Pio’s birth and the 15th anniversary of his canonization. The relics include a handkerchief he was clutching when he died, a lock of hair, a scab from a wound on his hand, gauze that covered the wound, and one of his gloves.

A visitor touches the display holding a lock of St. Pio’s hair. (Evelyn Andrews)

“Relics are a physical object that helps us remember that person,” said Kim Schulman, the church’s director of communications.

Touching and venerating the relics is seen as a way to be closer to God, Edward Dillon, the pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, said. Saints are seen as models for how to live a godly life, Dillon said.

“Saints are by definition close friends of God and have a connection to him,” Dillon said.

After the presentation at Holy Spirit, the relics went to New Orleans, La., and Jacksonville, Fla., before heading to their last stop in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Oct. 8. The tour was organized by the St. Pio Foundation, which is headquartered in New York.

Known in life as Padre Pio, he lived in Italy and was made a saint in 2002 after demonstrating what the church says were miracles. In 1918, he reported his first occurrence of the stigmata, which is bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. St. Pio continued to experience bleeding on his hands, feet and side for 50 years until his death, Dillon said. St. Pio also was said to be able to “bilocate,” or be in two places at once, Dillon said.

Many people have a devotion to St. Pio because of these experiences, Dillon said.

“Devotion developed to him all over the world,” he said.

At Holy Spirit, people stood in a line that snaked around the sanctuary before viewing and touching the relics at the front of the room. The relics were on display from 9 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. Oct. 3, and people trickled in to see the display throughout the day.

David Weldo came from Michigan with a friend after missing the display in Saginaw, Mich., on Sept. 29.

This glove worn by St. Pio was one of the relics on display at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Buckhead. (Evelyn Andrews)

“It’s something that I’ll probably never get to see again so I wanted to make the trip down,” Weldo said. “I enjoyed every second,” Weldo said of his trip.

Lorena Diaz, a Brookhaven resident, said she did not know much about St. Pio before seeing relics, but said it was “a good experience.” “I cannot explain it, but I feel the Holy Spirit in me after seeing them,” Diaz said.

Ljubica Vranicar, visiting from Pennsylvania, has been devoted to St. Pio for many years, she said, and relished the opportunity to see his relics.

Originally from Croatia, Vranicar said St. Pio has changed her life. She brought with her rosary beads that had a picture of St. Pio in one bead.

“He has really helped me in my life,” said Vranicar, who was visiting her daughter, who lives in Brookhaven.