Philippines has started the construction of a huge statue of the popular Catholic saint Padre Pio.
The statue will rise a 100 feet above a new church building (high as 7 double decker buses) and will be the centrepiece of a sanctuary complex overlooking the city of Cebu.
The ground breaking of the project was held on Sept. 17, in the presence of Archbishop Jose Palma and members of the Contemplative Community of Padre Pio de Cebu.
Most Rev Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, outlined his hopes for the sanctuary and the giant statue.
“May Padre Pio inspire every Filipino to protect every family and to raise every child according to the teachings of the Gospel” he said.
Joey Cagasero, a Padre Pio devotee from Cebu, told the Union of Catholic Asian news that the location of the Padre Pio statue is significant.
“It is symbolic that the sanctuary is the highest church located on the island that welcomed the early missionaries 500 years ago. There would be healing Masses and confessions here. That’s our goal. We hope that millions if not thousands of devotees of Padre Pio would visit this place”.
Christianity first came to the Philippines in 1521 after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the islands. And Padre Pio is one of the country’s favourite saints.
The Italian Capuchin friar, who died in 1968, is venerated by people who believe he exhibited the stigmata – the appearance of bodily wounds echoing the wounds of Jesus Christ on the cross.
He was named as a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
The envisioned pilgrimage site will house some first class relics of Padre Pio, a replica of his incorrupt body, and a chapel with an altar that will replicate that of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Italy’s San Giovanni Rotondo, where the saint lived from 1916 until his death in 1968.
Santuario di Padre Pio will also feature, among others, an adoration chapel, a confessional hall, lounges and social spaces for healing ministry and recollection
(With inputs from CBCP News; Picture Courtesy: Screen grab from Youtube/Santuario di Padre Pio-Cebu)