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                                           Padre Pio and Pope Pius XII

   From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Pius XII exhorted the faithful to gather together and pray often as a community.  The Holy Father's invitation for groups of the faithful to gather for prayer was picked up by the faithful as World War II loomed on the horizon.  This war would divide and disperse millions of people.  If war divides and disperses, then prayer would bring together and unite.

   Pope Pius XII's pleas came from the heart.  Padre Pio saw the dangers that his Spiritual Children would encounter as the world in which they were called to live as pilgrims and strangers moved further away from God-centered values.  His pleas for a greater commitment to prayer and a deeper Christian life were expressed by the Holy Father throughout his Pontificate:   "We need strong groups of adults and youth, who, keeping themselves closely united with Christ, gather at least once a month for the Bread of Life and encourage others to do the same (February 17, 1942).  Do not fear, pray (March 13, 1943).  The church has urgent need of the faithful and groups of the faithful, from all walks of life, who, free from the slavery of human respect, conform their entire life and activities to the commandments of God and the law of Christ (March 8, 1952).

   Understanding the value and need to pray always, Padre Pio accepted the repeated pleas of Pope Pius XII and encouraged the faithful to gather in groups to pray according to the intentions of the Holy Father.

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1947  -  Prayer Groups Began Springing Up

   The sole desire of the prayer groups was to pray and pray together.  Padre Pio's appeal was responded to:

Never grow weary of praying.  This is essential.  Prayer penetrates the heart of God and obtains the graces needed...Without prayer, our House for the Relief of Suffering is somewhat like a plant without air and sun.  One day, Doctor Sanguinetti, heard Padre Pio say:  "Let us start doing something.  Let us roll up our sleeves.  Let us be the first to respond to the appeal launched by our Supreme Pontiff."

   In a world armed for war, Padre Pio wanted a world armed with prayer:  Prayer is the best weapon we have, and the key to God's heart.  The first document that speaks of the existence of groups in 1949 states:  They gather once or twice monthly; they attend Mass, receive the Sacraments, and recite the Rosary together ... We would be very happy if these groups multiplied, possiby under the spiritual direction of a priest.

   Padre Pio said:  "Let us gather periodically for prayer in common.  Today's society does not pray, that is why it is falling apart."

   The idea of Prayer Groups was promoted and supported by Padre Pio because he envisioned them and God's instruments of relief for a suffering world.  Knowing that alone he could do little for those who suffer throughout the world, Padre Pio organized the Prayer Groups so that they would be a source of constant prayer for those who were needy in either body or soul throughout the world.

Those who knew Padre Pio's humility, reserve, desire for the silent life, and obedience to the Church were convinced that his desire for these Prayer Groups was solely founded on the words of Jesus Who tells us that He is present wherever two or three are gathered in His Name.

   Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna, Italy stated:  "a fraternal bond links the members (of Prayer Groups) among themselves, and goes beyond all human misery, indigence and suffering."

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