The early 1930s had been a time of great suffering for St Pio. In June 1931, an order had come from the Vatican that forbade him from saying Mass in public and from hearing confessions. Owing to the fact that the heart of Padre Pio’s ministry was spending as much as 14 hours in the confessional, it meant that Pio’s ministry was utterly restricted. He was like a child who was grounded for two years. From 1931 to 1933 is known as Pio’s 'first persecution’, or drawing on incarceration metaphors, ‘the imprisonment’.
That said, May 2nd 1939 was an extremely important day in the life of Padre Pio – this summer day started a stage in his life that lasted over nine years.
Why was May 2nd 1939 such a critical day? For the precise reason that a new Pope was elected – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII – and his papacy lasted until 1959. Pope Pius XII’s time in the Chair of Peter is the exact same time frame that allowed Padre Pio’s good reputation to flourish. Instead of being distrusted by the Catholic hierarchy, they put enough confidence in him that he was allowed to go about his priestly duties in peace.
The key is that ‘the new Pope’, Pope Pius XII thought very highly of Padre Pio. Soon after he became the number one leader in the Church, he had commanded the Roman Cuia, “leave Padre Pio in peace.”
According to Renzo Allegri’s concise biography, Padre Pio: Man of Hope, Pope Pius XII once confided in a member of the press that ‘Padre Pio is a great saint, and it displeases us that we are not able to say so publicly.’
It is possible that Pope Pius XII passed on his affection for Padre Pio to his sister. The guest book at San Giovanni Rotondo was signed by Pope Pius XII’s sister, Maria Teresa Gerini.
IF Pius XII had said that Padre Pio was a saint while he was alive – Padre Pio said that Pius XII was a saint after his death. On October 9th, 1959, Pope Pius XII passed away. Padre Pio was very upset at his passing.
After Pope Pius XII left this world, a nun, Sr Pascalina Lehnert wrote to San Giovanni Rotondo, wanting to know Padre Pio’s opinion of Pius XII. In response, Padre Pio’s face was transfigured into joy, and he and he answered, ‘he is in Paradise.’
When Padre Pio was asked to give more detail he said; ‘yes, I have seen him in Paradise.’ Pio was saying that his own eyes had told him that Pius XII was a saint. The strict definition of a saint is a soul that has earned eternal reward in heaven.
In response to this entire chain of events, Father Agostino wrote in his Diary on November 18 th 1958: "Padre Pio was very sad for the death of Pope Pio XII. But Our Lord let him see the Pope in the glory of Paradise."
If it takes one to know one, then in his lifetime Pius XII confided in a journalist that Pio was a saint. And after the death of Piux XII, Pio said that Pius XII had been admitted to paradise: the picture of the life of a saint.