ROME: Church officials have exhumed the remains of Padre Pio, a hugely popular Italian saint whose body is due to go on public display later this year, officials said on Monday.

Bishop Domenico D’Ambrosio, a Vatican-appointed envoy who oversaw the unearthing on Sunday night, said the body was well preserved.

Padre Pio, a mystic Capuchin monk who had an enormous following in Italy and abroad, died in 1968 after living for decades with inexplicable, bleeding wounds on his hands and feet, like the wounds Jesus suffered at crucifixion. Pope John Paul II made him a saint in 2002.

Church officials wanted to exhume the body so the faithful can pray before it, since this year marks the 40th anniversary of his death. They also wanted to take measures to ensure it was being well preserved.

Bishop D’Ambrosio said there was no sign of the so-called stigmata on his limbs after an initial examination on Sunday and Monday. But he said that otherwise, the body had been “conserved well.”

“Padre Pio’s fingernails are as if he had just had a manicure,” Bishop D’Ambrosio said. — AP