RELIGION

Saint's heart goes on display for 1st time outside Italy

  • The heart of St. Padre Pio held in a plastic box by a priest is touched by a woman at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    The heart of St. Padre Pio held in a plastic box by a priest is touched by a woman at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)  (The Associated Press)

  • People line up to venerate the heart of St. Padre Pio held in a plastic box by a priest at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    People line up to venerate the heart of St. Padre Pio held in a plastic box by a priest at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)  (The Associated Press)

  • A woman bows her head at the heart of St. Padre Pio, held in a plastic box by a priest, during veneration at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    A woman bows her head at the heart of St. Padre Pio, held in a plastic box by a priest, during veneration at the Immaculate Conception Church, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Lowell, Mass. This marks the first time the religious relic has ever left its home in Italy. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)  (The Associated Press)

The heart of a celebrated Roman Catholic saint is being publicly displayed this week — the first time the religious relic has left Italy.

Hundreds of the faithful are expected to line up Wednesday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a glimpse of the heart of St. Padre Pio.

Honoring the relics of saints is an ancient practice in the Roman Catholic faith.

St. Padre Pio was a Capuchin friar best known for possessing the Stigmata, or wounds of Jesus Christ. He died in Foggia, Italy, in 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

The heart also will be displayed in Boston later this week as part of the run-up to the saint's feast day on Friday.