Padre Pio in his community photographed by Elia Stelluto Padre Pio in his community photographed by Elia Stelluto 

Ten unpublished shots of Padre Pio now available to all

"Photographs of Saint Pio - Memories of a Saint" is an initiative of the Saint Pio Foundation, which has selected some photographs of the saint taken by his photographer, Elia Stelluto, and made them available to believers for free. The initiative marks the 25th anniversary of the beatification of the Saint of Pietrelcina and the 10th anniversary of the Foundation.

By Tiziana Campisi

"Take as many as you want without that flash": Padre Pio really couldn't stand that flash of light generated by the combustion of magnesium powder, but he had seen that boy hanging around the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo since he was a child, and had given him the permission to photograph him “with no flash” as much as he liked, so he could earn a few pennies.

Elia Stelluto, born in 1935, has taken thousands of photos of the Franciscan friar, in everyday life, during various celebrations, during intimate moments, all without a flash. Yet they all have a unique light. "I still can't understand the mystery of these photos," says "Padre Pio’s photographer.”

Ten of Stelluto's photographs of the saint, some of which are unpublished, are now freely available to believers and devotees of Padre Pio on a dedicated website:

Stelluto and Luciano Lamonarca, founder of the Saint Pio Foundation, presented the initiative during a press conference on Monday, 29 April, at the Vatican Film Library, with the patronage of the Dicastery for Communication and the Dicastery for Education and Culture.

The initiative "Photographs of Saint Pio - Memories of a Saint" celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beatification of Padre Pio and the tenth anniversary of the Foundation.

The Press Conference to present the initiative
The Press Conference to present the initiative

A saint of the people

"Father Pio is a figure who is still relevant today and who continues to attract many people,” said Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication during the briefing.

“He is a saint of the people because he came from the people, a saint capable of communicating” despite his high spiritual demands, he added.

The photographs chosen by Stelluto and Lamonarca show the saint of Pietrelcina just like that: a simple friar, among his brothers in community life or while celebrating Mass, or blessing a rosary.

The snapshots also help to reconstruct his life, emphasized Archbishop Felice Accrocca of Benevento, the diocese where Father Pio lived for the first years of his life. He explained how important it is to contextualize the environment in which the religious was born and raised and to outline everything that characterized his personality, shaped by local customs and traditions.

Elia Stelluto's photographic equipment
Elia Stelluto's photographic equipment

The memories of Padre Pio's photographer

"It was my desire to donate the photos to the entire Catholic world and to the spiritual children of Padre Pio," said Stelluto, who recounted some anecdotes from the years spent alongside the holy friar, "a sweet person," an affectionate man whom he managed to “capture” with his face lit up by a smile. Elia was also his altar boy and he recalled that after Mass, the boys went to kiss Padre Pio's wounded hands, "a spring that never ran dry" and that people never tire of talking about.

Remember to pray, go to Mass on Sundays, and recite the Rosary: these were the teachings that Stelluto keeps in his heart. "His weapon was the Rosary," he explained to Vatican News, recalling that to those who asked him for miracles, the religious recommended prayer above all.

The Press Conference
The Press Conference

Today, Elia Stelluto's enormous photographic archive, which includes about three thousand shots and several films, is managed by his nephew, Ruben Lobos. The films have been digitized, he revealed, adding that there are still many unpublished photos of Padre Pio through which it is possible to get to know his daily life.

Padre Pio blessing a rosary
Padre Pio blessing a rosary

The initiatives of the Saint Pio Foundation

The face of the saint of Pietrelcina is the face of a humble person, emphasized Lamonarca, whose idea to make some of Stelluto's photographs available, aims to better acquaint people with Padre Pio, and allow them to also see beyond the image of the stigmatized saint.

For this reason, the Saint Pio Foundation has made various resources available, including recently "The Song of Padre Pio," composed by the musician Rico Garofalo together with his friend and lyricist Gino Scauzillo, and sung by Lamonarca to make it freely available to the public.

The Foundation has also selected 365 letters, one for each day of the year, which have been translated into five languages, written by Saint Pio to his spiritual directors and to his spiritual children so that they can be a guide for those seeking a source of inspiration.

Finally, a documentary is in the works: "We want to give a message of hope," Lamonarca concluded: "We must be more in communion with ourselves and with others, and I believe and hope that Padre Pio encourages people to be more peaceful."

Padre Pio celebrating Mass
Padre Pio celebrating Mass

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02 May 2024, 15:41