Hundreds pray before St. Pio relics during historic exhibition at Newark cathedral

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NEWARK, NJ — Hundreds of people honored and prayed before five relics of St. Pio, the first priest in the Catholic Church’s history to bear stigmata wounds, during a public exhibition at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Sept. 12 and 13.

The occasion marked the first time in history that relics of St. Pio — which included crusts of St. Pio’s wounds, gauze stained with his blood, locks of his hair, a piece of his mantle and a handkerchief drenched in his sweat — were on display in New Jersey, and visitors waited on sometimes long lines to venerate them. Once it was their turn, the guests knelt before the sacred objects and prayed silently, some with tears in their eyes. Many touched the glass-encased relics or held items, such as rosaries, against them in the hopes of receiving a blessing.

Visitors also admired a life-sized replica of “I Embrace You,” a sculpture created by artist Timothy Schmalz that depicts blood pouring from the crucified Jesus into St. Pio’s stigmata. A Mass in the saint’s honor was later celebrated by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Newark. During his homily, Tobin said St. Pio’s willingness to listen to others is especially admirable considering how divided today’s society has become. He reminded those gathered that they all can relate to the saint’s oft-repeated admission that he was just “a poor friar who prays.”

“We’re just poor people who pray,” Tobin said. “And because we pray, because we bear in our hearts the marks of Christ’s passion, we are ambassadors for reconciliation of this world.”

The relics display was part of the Saint Pio Foundation’s “I Embrace You” Tour, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of St. Pio’s canonization by Pope St. John Paul II, as well as the 135th anniversary of his birth. It will next move to the Church of Our Saviour, 59 Park Ave. in New York City, to coincide with St. Pio’s feast day on Sept. 23. For more information, visit

Photos Courtesy of Archdiocese of Newark