Spirit Daily

Former Aide To Padre Pio Says The Saint Had Incorporated Part Of The New Mass

By Michael H. Brown

An Italian priest who served as a liaison between the famed Capuchin St. Padre Pio and English-speaking followers says that the saint had incorporated elements of the new or "Novus Ordo" Mass into his own celebrations of the liturgy before his death in 1968 despite rumors to the contrary.

The assisting priest, Padre Ermelindo Di Capua -- currently stationed in San Giovanno, Italy, where St. Pio spent nearly his entire ministry -- says the saint strictly adhered to dictates from Rome and sought information on precisely what he needed to do in order to conform with new strictures as the liturgy was changed from the Latin Rite after Vatican II.

The remarks are significant at a time when controversy has arisen over both the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo and the reaction to it by Pio -- considered a paragon of discernment.

It also comes at a time of enhanced interest (including here) of reintroducing elements of the Latin Rite into the modern Mass to bring back its mystical aspects. "It's not just old-timers wanting to cling to pre-Vatican II ways who are coming to the liturgies," notes one newspaper recently. "People in their twenties and thirties are filling many of the pews, finding serenity and a sense of awe in the solemn rituals." Additional interest has been sparked by director Mel Gibson, who recently made headlines with his movie about the Passion and who reportedly adheres only to the Latin Rite.

While there is no indication that Pio embraced all the reforms of Vatican II -- and indeed are even reports that he was distressed by certain Church trends -- Padre Ermelindo told Spirit Daily there was no indication that the saint opposed the new way of saying Mass, which has the priest facing the congregation and speaking in the national vernacular, which many believe detracts from reverence.

Ermelindo notes that the Novus Ordo is the only rite used at San Giovanni today and that visiting priests who request to use the Latin Rite are denied in conformance with the national bishops.

"He used to say Mass according to the new order," asserts the Franciscan, who lived in the same monastery as Pio and answered his English-speaking correspondence. "By 1968 [when Pio died] the new order was not yet complete, but had changed some things from Latin into the Italian language. He attempted to say Mass according to the new disposition of the Church. He tried to learn and adapt himself to the new rules of the Mass. There was still some Latin. It wasn't yet completely changed. The canon I don't remember exactly." "

Latin proponents have asserted that in fact Pio never did recite the new rite. "When the Mass of 1965 was introduced, bearing the first changes that were the precursors to the Novus Ordo, Padre Pio, without even reading the text, publicly took the position that he did not want to celebrate it," claimed one such correspondent. "He died before the full-blown Novus Ordo was issued in 1969 (and then recalled for doctrinal flaws)."

Padre Ermelindo -- who left San Giovanni Rotundo in 1970 and returned four years ago -- contradicts that, saying that he never heard Padre Pio criticize the new rules and that Pio always referred to Rome as "our mother." Ermelindo adds that the sainthood of Pio would have been impossible without strict obedience and that the greatest miracles around the saint were conversions. During his last Mass Padre Pio, who was too ailing to stand, sat on a chair in front of the people, says the assistant.

As for rumors that Pio's body has been moved from his tomb or that items from it have been taken, Ermelindo dismisses those out of hand.

"He was never moved from his tomb," says the priest, adding, however, that the shrine is waiting for Rome to decide whether to relocate St. Pio's body to a new crypt.

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