In Bring Out Your Dead, Bernd Biege takes on the increasingly sticky moral issue of bringing out Irish dead “to be gawked at. In museums.”
Saints, sinners or pre-Chistian sacrifices, the question remains the same – should human remains be put on display outside the confines of a medical faculty? And where are the thresholds that should not be crossed? Is the thighbone of an executed clergyman different from the torso of a drowned Celtic noble or the mummified but complete body of a thief? To me it seems to be but a small step from veneration to morbid curiosity …
These are the very questions that plague the Catholic church’s proposed exhumation of Padre Pio, credited with over a thousand cures and who, it was believed, “bore the wounds of the crucified Christ on his hands, feet and side for at least 50 years.”
The church wants to put Padre Pio on display for pilgrims to venerate. And why not? There’s more here than faith alone:
His shrine near Foggia draws close to one million pilgrims a year and generates millions of euros for the local economy. The hospital he founded in San Giovanni Rotondo is one of the biggest in southern Italy.
Of course, Padre Pio’s family objects to digging up the Italian saint’s body and putting it on display.
Like many religious figures popular with the poor and the dispossessed, Jesus among them, the religious elite shunned Padre Pio for most of his life (to be fair, there has been recent documentation of possible fraud). Still, the church seem to have jumped big-time onto the bandwagon when overwhelming public adoration made them think twice, according to Exhumation of Padre Pio contested
Guess where Padre Pio has massive followers outside of Italy? If you said Ireland, you’d be right.