July 22, 2018 - Reported [here], [here] and [here]. The Shroud of Padre Pio The saint wiped his face with a handkerchief, and later a mysterious image appeared on it. Shroud of Turin expert says the image is acheropita – not made by human hands.
The story begins in February 1968, and concerns Francesco Cavicchi of Conegliano, Italy, who was one of the spiritual sons of Padre Pio. Francesco with his wife Carla and some friends drove to San Govanni Rotondo from their home in northern Italy, because he wished to personally ask the friar for some advice on a certain matter. But upon their arrival they learned that the Padre was not feeling well, and had to remain in his cell in the monastery. They decided to stay in San Giovanni for a few days before returning home.
The day they were to depart, Francesco went to the Superior of the friary to find out if, through him, he could get a message to Padre Pio and receive an answer. “Why don't you ask him yourself,” was the reply. “In a short while he will be coming down and will confess the men.” Then the Superior pointed to an elevator and told Francesco to wait there. Francesco nervously waited alone before the elevator door, worried about how to approach Padre Pio with his question, since he know the monk had no time to waste in idle chatter. In his agitation, his hands started sweating, so he took a handkerchief out of his pocket and held it tightly to absorb the moisture. In the meantime, the elevator descended, and as he saw the door start to open, he knelt down in front of it. There was Padre Pio, who stood before him, offering his mittened hand to be kissed. Then he said with a smile, “Son, if you don't get up, how am I going to get past you?”
Francesco stood up, and as he did so, Padre Pio saw the handkerchief that he was holding in his hands; reaching out he took it. “How wonderful, “ Francesco thought. “Then when he returns it I will have a precious relic!” Walking alongside the friar, he told him all about his problem, and as usual, he immediately received a precise answer. They arrived at the entrance to the room where the men were waiting to be confessed. The crowd pressed around the saint trying to kiss his hand or touch him, and Francesco was swallowed up in the rush, forgetting all about the handkerchief. But Padre Pio had not forgotten it. He turned towards Francesco, showing him the cloth. Then he unfolded it and wiped his face with it, as if he had been sweating, although it was winter. Staring into Francesco's eyes, he handed it back to him with a gesture of tenderness. Deeply moved, Francesco understood that he had just been given a great gift.
Francesco is certain that at that time there were no unusual markings on it, it was just a wrinkled handkerchief. But since it was held by Padre Pio and had touched his face, it was an exceptional relic. When he returned to their hotel, he told his wife, and she too was overjoyed about it. After the Cavicchi's made the journey back to their home in Conegliano, they continued to regard it with devotion. Francesco always carried it with him, like a good luck charm. He kept it folded in his jacket pocket when he wasn't showing it to friends and telling them the story about it. With the passage of time, it became darkened and looked dirty.
The 23rd of September, 1969 was the first anniversary of the passing of Padre Pio, and the Cavicchi's with some friends embarked on a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo. They traveled overnight by bus, and after their arrival early the next morning, Francesco was unusually tired. After praying at the saint's tomb, he went upstairs into the church and sat alone in a pew to get some rest. In a short time he fell asleep, and began to dream about Padre Pio. The friar was at the altar, and then left it and came towards Francesco. He was smiling, and when he reached Francesco, he opened his habit and showed him the wound on his chest. “Touch it,” said Padre Pio. Francesco was afraid he would hurt him, but Padre Pio insisted. He put his fingers in the wound, and after he withdrew them he saw that they were covered with a white sticky film. A kind of handkerchief appeared out of nowhere, and he cleaned his fingers of the white substance, which left black marks on the cloth. Then on his fingertips he noticed an image of Padre Pio. He looked for the friar, but he was gone. At that very moment his wife woke him up, telling him that he looked very tired. He told her he had gotten some rest, and that he was going outside to refresh himself.
In the courtyard in front of the friary stood a small fountain, which has since been moved elsewhere. People went there to quench their thirst because it was “the water of Padre Pio.” Francesco rinsed his hands and face, and took out a handkerchief to dry himself. Inadvertently, instead of taking a clean cloth, he took out the handkerchief that Padre Pio had given him. A woman nearby noticed how dirty it was, and asked him if he would like her to wash it. Seeing how stained it was, he said “yes, let's wash it.” As soon as he spoke those words he marveled, because every time his wife wanted to wash it he had prevented her. The woman began to pour water on it from a bottle, and he rinsed it in his hands. Suddenly the woman began screaming, “Padre Pio, Padre Pio!” “Where?” he asked. “There, in the handkerchief!” she continued, shouting.
People started to rush over, and Francesco became frightened. He recalled that the day before, a lady had shouted in the church that she could see Padre Pio by the altar. She was abruptly taken off to the police station by the carabinieri. He quickly put the handkerchief in his pocket, and walked away saying “There is nothing to see.” He took refuge in the church for awhile, and then went back to his hotel. But in reality there was something to see. He saw dark marks similar to those he had seen in his dream. They could be taken to resemble a face, but they were not clear. " I understood that something mysterious was occurring with that handkerchief." Not wanting to be deceived, he said nothing to anyone, not even his wife. He spread it out on the dressing table so it could dry out. During Mass the next morning, he prayed to Padre Pio, asking help in understanding what the signs on the handkerchief meant, and whether he should tell his wife Carla. Suddenly he could smell the aroma of a strong perfume, and he interpreted it as permission to talk with his wife.
Returning to their hotel from Mass, he told her everything that had happened. In their room, he picked up the cloth and held it up before their eyes. “What do you see?” he asked her. “The face of Jesus,” she answered. “What Jesus? It's Padre Pio,” he retorted. “No, for me it is the face of Jesus,” she insisted. Then he realized that his wife was looking at the opposite side of the same handkerchief. On one side was the face of Padre Pio, composed of those same lines he had noticed the night before, but now the face appeared clearer and more detailed. Seen from the other side, the image appeared to be that of Jesus.
Confused and frightened, Francesco was uncertain about what he should do. He consulted with some religious and even his bishop, who were amazed at seeing it, but advised him to keep it hidden. The Cause for Padre Pio's beatification was just getting off the ground, and they worried that this might lead to fanaticism, harming the Cause. He obeyed, and kept silent for many years, until the date of the 1999 beatification of Padre Pio was announced. He and his wife established a small shrine in their home at Conegliano, and every year hundreds of the faithful came to venerate the cloth. The walls are decorated by many ex-votos in honor of graces received. He passed away in 2005, and his widow Carla in 2009. At that time, the handkerchief was consigned to an undisclosed friary.
The community of friars decided to have the image examined by an expert, Professor Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the Shroud of Turin, and on other images of a mysterious origin, termed “acheropite,” not made by human hands. According to Professor Fanti, the images on the handkerchief are similar to those on the Shroud. They have not been painted or drawn, and no trace of pigment or color can be found. There is an image on one side of the cloth that resembles Padre Pio, and on the other side it resembles Jesus. The image of Jesus is fainter, but one can discern on the right eye a cut, as if from a lash, similar to what is on the Shroud. “The conclusion is irrefutable, it is impossible that these images be of human work.”
Many thanks to Renzo Allegri's Padre Pio, Il Santo dei Miracoli, and to various Internet articles on the Sindone di Conegliano.