Padre Pio was the subject of some suspicion and controversy during his lifetime, and I guess it's not too surprising that there's still some occasional fuss related to him.
In 1970, Vera Calandra and her family founded the Padre Pio Centre near Reading, PA, to promote the canonization of the saintly friar who had miraculously healed her daughter in 1968. For years the Centre was the official representative of his canonization cause in the U.S., authorized by Padre Pio's Capuchin order to raise funds and distribute literature. Now that the canonization has been accomplished, it seems to make sense that the Centre could continue its work of promoting devotion to St. Pio, spreading his spirituality, and eventually develop into a shrine for those purposes, ideally with the participation of Capuchins.
That's where the catch comes in: the Padre Pio Centre remains under the direction of the Calandra family. The Diocese wants to control it; the family says their mortgage obligations won't let them turn it over; and the two sides have never reached an agreement. The Capuchins are understandably standing back from the project until the bishop and the family work it out.
Now Bp. Edward Cullen of Allentown has said Merry Christmas to the Centre by ordering them to stop the two Masses per week that he had previously allowed at the site's chapel.
Here's a local news story found in Google's cache:
Mass stopped at Padre Pio site
By Megan Wolf
[Boyerstown Area] Times Staff
The National Center for Padre Pio in Barto may no longer hold Mass, and Center officials want it back.
Effective January 1, the Rev. Edward P. Cullen, D.D., Bishop of Allentown, has directed that enrollment in the Padre Pio Association of Poor Souls be discontinued.
According to the Diocese of Allentown, a letter dated Dec. 17 was written to the officials of the Padre Pio Center, where Bishop Cullen stated the decision to withdraw permission for Mass and Sacraments was due to the Center's failure to conform to canonical mandates.
"There has never been a specific allegation of impropriety. Never," said Julie Calandra-Lineberg, vice president of the center.
In a prepared statement, the Diocese of Allentown said, "The Bishop's letter said the mandates have been repeatedly explained in meetings and correspondence between the Diocese and Center officials over the last five years."
"The Bishop has withdrawn permission for Mass and the celebration of the sacraments at the Centre, which is not a shrine and has never been recognized as such by the Catholic Church," the statement from the Diocese read.
"The former Bishop Welsh officially blessed the center and welcomed it into the Diocese, in 1991. Now, Bishop Cullen is forming a new board to give the Bishop complete control of the Center, which is a civil organization. It cannot be done, and he was told that repeatedly," she said. "We have been absolutely courteous. We cannot do that which is not legal."
The Association of Poor Souls, begun in 1992, allowed for donations to be made for members to be remembered in a Mass.
Now, the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith will assume the responsibility to fulfill the spiritual benefits to enrolled members.
New members will not be accepted.
The Center held Mass twice a month and on the first Saturday.
Officials at the Center said they hope to hold Mass in the future.
According to Calandra-Lineberg, the Bishop has 30 days to answer the Center's appeal, which is Feb. 1.
"Perhaps he should reconsider. The Bishop's directive was incorrect," she said.
In other news, the center is planning an expansion project, which will add a 22,000-square-foot museum.
The three-story museum will house a cultural education center, dedicated to the life of Padre Pio, who was canonized into sainthood in 2002.
The construction began in August and is slated to be complete by this summer.
I have to figure that the Church has resolved similar property disputes in the past, and can do so again, without resorting to the interdicts and excommunications that the U.S. bishops used in the 19th-century controversy over "lay trusteeship".