Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Diana, San Pio, the Odour of Sanctity and a Whiff of Scandal.

Whilst on holiday in Sardinia, I was intrigued by the seemingly widespread devotion to San Pio of Pietrelcina (formerly known - before his canonisation - as Padre Pio). The local supermarket had a prayer card pasted above one of the tills, and sold exclusively San Pio votive candles, a favourite restaurant of ours had a portrait of him on the wall, the Assumption procession contained a section headed by a San Pio banner (see photo), and - most bizarrely - we noted a young man on the beach sporting a sizeable tattoo of the saint.
It would appear that the body of the saint is now on display at San Giovanni Rotondo having been exhumed and tidied up for exhibition.
Apparently the body was in a fair state of preservation, which church authorities were quick to point out was probably because it had had at least some attention from the embalmers, an injection of formaldehyde at the time of death.
[incorruptibility being a sign of 5-star, solid gold, fur-lined, ocean-going, Vatican-endorsed sainthood, the sort embodied by St Therese of Lisieux, St Bernadette of Lourdes, not the sort of sainthood forced upon the reluctant and sceptical church by the groundswell of the pious faithful].
Embalming immediately cancels out the possibility of spontaneous incorruptibility, leaving us with what we might term a '3-star' saint.
Diana, the late Princess of Wales, has a very powerful hold on the popular secular imagination, seen by many a credulous soul as 'a saint' in the making. Little surprise, then, that she was embalmed almost before she was on the mortuary slab, filleted of embarrassing evidence and consigned to an unhallowed grave.

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