When Padre Pio was in the military in Naples

by Federico Quagliuolo

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the miraculous man par excellence, also passed through Naples. And he did not do it in religious garments, but as a soldier, with a rifle in hand and with the uniform. A truly unusual image for the saint!

It was in fact the year 1915 and Italy, after many hesitations and internal struggles, decided to go to war secretly betraying former German and Austrian allies. Thus, as the Alps began to transform into a cemetery made of trenches, mud and bloody battles, mandatory call cards arrived nationwide for the National service, leading an entire generation to slaughter.
The famous "pink postcard" also arrived in the small Pietrelcina and was addressed to 28 year old friar Francesco Forgione, which at the time was not yet known for its miracles, but already had serious health problems and he was already known for his divine visions.

These visions, however, mattered little to the Italian state: any force was needed for support the national cause in the Great War.

Padre Pio military
Padre Pio military

Padre Pio in Naples

The young friar was initially assigned to Benevento and subjected to the ritual visits, where he was diagnosed with phthisis.

but he was soon moved to themilitary hospital of the Holy Trinity of Naples, which no longer exists, but was nearby of the Infrascata, the current Via Salvator Rosa. Here too the stay was short: Forgione was visited by Pietro Castellino, a physician of great fame, that he he sent off on leave for a few months in Pietrelcina.

The State, however, he knocked again on the door: the license it was over in 1917 and the Italian troops were in disarray on a front hundreds of kilometers away from Naples: the military, with the cardboard boots and ancient weapons, faced the fearsome Austrian troops with the morale in pieces and the enemies more and more looming. Caporetto was at the gates.
Just in these years a young japanese, Harukichi Shimoi, he hung out on the front, telling the state of the war in the newspapers of Naples.

A military service under the banner of torment

The return to the city of Forgione was not the best: chronic pain tortured him, he breathed with immense difficulty and walked with difficulty. He presented wounds on the body and the frail physique would have made him cannon fodder in any battlefield. But the country needed men, even in half service. And the colonel in charge of the military hospital rated the soldier Forgione as "adept at office work". And he obeyed, albeit with numerous licenses because of the sudden fevers and respiratory crises.

A famous episode of Padre Pio's life during the war, for example, was that of fever of 52 degrees, who went up to him in San Giovanni Rotondo. According to the hagiographic stories, it is said that despite the thermometers exploded after being placed on his body, he was perfectly cold.

When Padre Pio was in the military in Naples

The dismissal

The stay in Naples of Padre Pio was a torment even on days without physical pain: in many letters he told his family and his brothers superiors that he could not celebrate mass and even she burst into tears when he had the opportunity to go to pray in the church of the Trinity at Caesarea.

It was now 1918 and, together with the physical endurance of Padre Pio, even the war was coming to an end thanks to the Neapolitan Armando Diaz. The soldier in the habit, now thirty years old, was so exhausted by pain that he could not even walk anymore.

TO visit it for the last time the greatest luminary of Neapolitan medicine thought about it: Antonio Cardarelli. The doctor called it unfit for military service and with a signature made him conclude experience in the ranks of the Army.

The friar of the Gargano will never return to Naples, at least in life. But it cannot be said that it is not ubiquitous in the city, between a santino in the wallet and one expanse of votive icons scattered among the thousand churches of Naples.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Thanks to Carlo Restaino for suggesting this to us interesting theme. Support Naples Stories too!

Gennaro Turino, Padre Pio in Naples

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