Why build an ordinary everyday statue in commemoration of one of Catholicism’s most cherished saints when you can build one that literally delivers rays of light to the people?

Padre Pio has a special significance for Italian Catholics, who pray to him more often than to Jesus or the Virgin Mary, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that curators of his shrine have decided to build the kind of monument that will get worldwide attention: a 60-foot statue capable of collecting solar energy.

Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, Padre Pio has a massive global following that is expected to pony up the several million euros that it will take to build the statue. It will be covered in a special photovoltaic paint that will enable it to capture solar energy, making it the world’s first example of green religious iconography.

The saint is said to have borne the wounds of stigmata on his hands, feet and side for at least half a century, and his fellow friars attributed thousands of miraculous cures to him at the time of his death in 1968.

Padre Pio’s preserved body has been on display at San Giovanni Rotondo near the Adriatic coast of Italy since March of 2008, and will remain there through September. His face has been covered with a lifelike silicone mask of the type used in wax museums “to protect the sensibilities of those who visited the crypt.”

Even the state of his body 40 years after his death has been deemed a miracle, as a local bishop claims that when his tomb was opened, there was no unpleasant smell.

"When I asked the doctors for an explanation, they told me it was up to me to provide an answer, not them."

MNN homepage image includes photos by ammuth/iStockphoto and castielli/Flickr  

Holy solar: Statue of Catholic saint will produce renewable energy
Catholic saint Padre Pio will be commemorated with the world's first green, energy-producing statue.