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Q: Driving on an Italian highway, you can often spot trucks that have a picture of an older, bearded man plastered on the back. What’s up with that?

A: Military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are used to seeing pictures of various religious or political leaders plastered everywhere. It’s not nearly as common a practice in Italy. But Padre Pio is an exception.

The Capuchin monk was born in 1887 in Pietralcini in southern Italy and spent most of his life in San Giovanni Rotondo in the region of Puglia. He was credited with many miracles by the Roman Catholic Church during his life, which ended in 1968. Among the greatest were the stigmata on his hands — resembling the wounds that Jesus suffered on the cross — that he bore for decades. He was beatified in 1999 and became a saint in 2002.

Truck drivers — and other Italian motorists — post the picture on their vehicles in the hopes that they’ll be looked after.

The Padre Pio Foundation has been set up in the States. You can find more information about the saint at www.padrepio.com and buy some merchandise there as well.

Got a question about goings-on Europe? E-mail Stripes at: news@estripes.osd.mil

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