What was the actual conversation between Padre Pio and Archbishop Lefebvre?
This refutation of a calamny (still being spread today) was first published in 1990.
Available in the United States is a book entitled Padre Pio Gleanings by Pascal Catanco, which has been translated into English. On pages 58 and 59 one reads the following passage:
Among the many, many people who came to see Padre Pio was Archbishop Lefebvre who, later clinging stubbornly to Catholic Tradition, as he called it, questioned the authority of Vatican II and was removed from office by Pope Paul VI.
The archbishop had a meeting with Padre Pio in the presence of Professor Bruno Rabajotti. This witness reported that at a particular moment Padre Pio looked at Lefebvre very sternly and said:
Never cause discord among your brothers and always practise the rule of obedience; above all when it seems to you that the errors of those in authority are all the more serious. There is no other road than that of obedience, especially for those of us who have made this vow.
Padre Pio could give this advice because he had had to obey some rather questionable orders himself. His attitude was to put this in God's hands because He would find a way for truth to triumph. It seems Archbishop Lefebvre did not see things in quite the same way even if he did respond to Padre Pio with: "I will remember that, Father." Padre Pio looked at him intensely and, seeing what would soon happen, said:
No! You will forget it! You will tear apart the community of faithful, oppose the will of your superiors and even go against the orders of the pope himself and this will happen quite soon. You will forget the promise you made here today, and the whole Church will be hurt by you. Don't set yourself up as a judge. Don't take powers that do not belong to you and do not consider yourself as the voice of God's People, as God already speaks to them. Do not sow discord and dissension. However, I know this is what you will do!
Unfortunately, the truth of Padre Pio's prophecy is obvious to everyone.
On August 8, 1990, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote a personal letter to a Society priest in France who had written to ask him about the meeting with Padre Pio. Here are extracts from the letter:
For several years now this slander, a fabrication from start to finish, has been circulating in Italy. I have already refuted it, but lies die hard; there is not one word of truth in the page of that magazine you photocopied for me.
The meeting which took place after Easter in 1967 lasted two minutes. I was accompanied by Fr. Barbara and a Holy Ghost brother, Br. Felin. I met Padre Pio in a corridor, on his way to the confessional, being helped by two Capuchins.
I told him in a few words the purpose of my visit: for him to bless the Congregation of the Holy Ghost which was due to hold an extraordinary General my Chapter meeting, like all religious societies, under the heading of aggiornamento (updating), meeting which I was afraid would lead to trouble...
Then Padre Pio cried out. "Me, bless an archbishop, no, no, it is you who should be blessing me!" And he bowed, to receive the blessing. I blessed him, he kissed my ring and continued on his way to the confessional...
That was the whole of the meeting, no more, no less. To invent such an account as you sent me the copy of calls for a satanic imagination and mendacity. The author is a son of the Father of Lies.
Thank you for giving me the chance to tell once more the plain truth.
Most cordially yours in Christo et Maria,