Pope Pius X

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Pope Saint Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (2 June 183520 August 1914), was Pope from 1903 to 1914, succeeding Pope Leo XIII. He was the first pope since the Counter-Reformation Pope St. Pius V to be canonized. Despite this, the pontificate of Pope St. Pius X was one of the more controversial of modern papacies. Nevertheless, he is considered by many to have been one of the great Pontiffs ever to reign.


Early Life & Ministry

Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born 2 June 1835 in Riese, Province of Treviso, in Venice, Italy. He was the second born of ten children of Giovanni Battista Sarto (1792-1852) and Margarita Sanson (1813-1894). He was baptized 3 June 1835. Giuseppe's childhood was one of poverty, being the son of the village postman (his father) and seamstress (his mother). From his youth, however, Giuseppe felt the call of the priesthood.

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A Young Giuseppe Sarto

At a young age, Giuseppe studied Latin with his village priest, and then went on to study at the gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto. "In 1850 he received the tonsure from the Bishop of Treviso, and was given a scholarship [from] the Diocese of Treviso" to attend the Seminary of Padua "where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction" [[1] (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12137a.htm)].

In 1858, Giuseppe was ordained a priest, and became chaplain at Tombolo. While there, Father Sarto expanded his knowledge of theology, studying both Saint Thomas Aquinas and canon law, while carrying out most of the functions of the parish pastor, who was quite ill. In 1867, he was named Arch-Priest of Salzano. Here he restored the church and expanded the hospital, the funds coming from his own begging, wealth and labor. He became beloved by the people when he unflinchingly worked day and night to assist the sick during the cholera plague that swept into northern Italy in the early 1870s. His physical and spiritual works of mercy translated to many conversions [[2] (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12137a.htm)].

In 1875 he was made Canon (or Chancellor) of the Cathedral and Diocese of Treviso, holding offices such as spiritual director, rector of the Treviso seminary, and examiner of the clergy. Perhaps one of his more important achievements, and one prophetic of his papacy, as Chancellor was making it possible for public school students to receive religious instruction [[3] (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12137a.htm)].

In 1878 Bishop Zanelli died, leaving the Bishopric of Mantua vacant. Following Zanelli's death, the canons of cathedral chapters (of which Monsignor Sarto was one) inherited the episcopal jurisdiction as corporate body, and were chiefly responsible for the election of a Vicar-Capitular who would take over the responsibilities of Mantua until a new bishop was named. In 1879, Monsignor Sarto was elected to the position, which he served in from December of that year to June of 1880.

After 1880, Monsignor Sarto taught dogmatic theology and moral theology at the seminary in Mantua.

Bishop of Mantua

Bishop Sarto
Bishop Sarto

Six years after being elected to the position of Vicar-Capitular of Mantua, and four after leaving that post, Monsignor Sarto was, on 10 November 1884, raised to the episcopate as Bishop of Mantua. As Bishop, Sarto was chiefly concerned with turning the condition of Mantua around, which was in a state of turmoil. Committed to his episcopal calling and to the people of Mantua, Bishop Sarto rejected the luxuries afforded to him because of his position, seeking to improve the physical and spiritual lives of his flock.

Bishop Sarto was also motivated to improve the seminary at Mantua, particularly in bringing it more in line with the doctrines and methods of Thomas Aquinas. He also promoted the use of Gregorian Chant. Always watchful of the poor, Bishop Sarto is noted to have provided free copies of the Summa Theologica to the poorer students at the seminary.

Soon the troubles of Mantua were behind them, and Bishop Sarto was highly praised for his involvement. On 19 June 1891, Bishop Sarto served as assistant at the Pontifical Throne, a great honor for anyone.

Cardinal & Patriarch

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Cardinal Sarto

Because of his devotion and abilities, moreover, Pope Leo XIII, on 12 June 1893, created Bishop Sarto a cardinal in a secret consistory. He was named Cardinal-Priest of Saint Bernardo alle Terme. Three days after this, Cardinal Sarto was publicly named Patriarch of Venice.

Because a political difficulty arose over his assumption of this office, Cardinal Sarto retained the apostolic administration of Mantua. The difficulty over Sarto's assumption of Patriarch of Venice was that the Royal Italian Government claimed the right of nomination, based on an alleged privilege previously exercised by the Emperor of Austria. The anticlericalism of the Italian Court and the resentment felt by the Roman Curia over the transfer of Rome from papal rule in 1870 complicated relationships. About 1896, the Italian state backed down and Cardinal Sarto was able to assume his post.

In Venice, Cardinal Sarto found the situation much better than in Mantua, though this did not deter him from pursuing his long-time devotion to pastoral tasks. He supported social works, such as the rural parochial banks, and continued his care and support for the poor in Venice. He was also involved in the seminary, where he established a faculty for canon law. He also promoted Gregorian Chant [[4] (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12137a.htm)].

As Cardinal and Patriarch, Sarto steered clear of political involvement. However, in his first pastoral letter to the Venetians, Cardinal Sarto argued that in matters pertaining to the Pope, "there should be no questions, no subtleties, no opposing of personal rights to his rights, but only obedience."

Papal Election

Pope Pius X wearing the Papal Tiara of Gregory XVI
Pope Pius X wearing the Papal Tiara of Gregory XVI

On 20 July 1903, the much loved and very elderly Pope Leo XIII died, and subsequently (by August) the conclave convened to elect a new Pope. According to historians, the favorite was Leo XIII's secretary of state, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro. On the first ballot, Cardinal Rampolla received 24 votes, Cardinal Gotti had 17 votes, and Cardinal Sarto 5 votes. On the second ballot, Rampolla had gained 5 votes, as did Sarto. The next day, it seemed that Rampolla would be elected. However, the veto against Rampolla's nomination, by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, was proclaimed. Many among the conclave, including Rampolla, protested the veto, and it was even suggested that he be elected Pope despite the veto.

However, the third vote had already begun, and thus the conclave had to continue with the voting, which resulted in no clear winner, though it did indicate that many of the conclave wished to turn their support to Sarto, who had 21 votes upon counting. The fourth vote showed Rampolla with 30 votes and Sarto with 24. It seemed clear that the cardinals were moving toward Cardinal Sarto.

On the following morning, the fifth vote of the conclave was taken, and the count had Rampolla with 10 votes, Gotti with 2 votes, and Sarto with 50 votes [Source]. Thus, on 4 August 1903, Cardinal Sarto was elected to the 257th Pontificate. (See Papal conclave, 1903.)

At first, it is reported, Sarto declined the nomination, feeling unworthy. Additionally, he had been deeply saddened by the abuse of veto powers and vowed to rescind these powers and excommunicate anyone who leaked information during a conclave. With the cardinals asking him to reconsider, it is further reported, he went into solitude, and after deep prayer, and the urging of his fellow cardinals, he realized it was the Will of God that this simple parish priest should lead the Church at the dawn of the 20th Century. [[5] (http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/04Sep/sep3sos.htm)]

Cardinal Sarto, accepting his nomination to the Papacy, took as his Papal name Pius X, out of respect for his recent predecessors of the same name, particularly Pius IX, who had courageously resisted persecution and fought against theological errors. Pius X's coronation, using the traditional Papal Tiara, took place on the following Sunday, 9 August 1903.

It is important to note, that it was at this conclave that elected Pope Pius X that the vetoes of papal candidates by Catholic powers, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were used for the last time. Pius X, who was saddened and angered at the abuse of the veto powers, subsequently prohibited their use, and threatened to excommunicate anyone who leaked information during a conclave.

Pius X's Papacy

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Pope St. Pius X prayer card

The pontificate of Pope St. Pius X was noted for its conservative agenda and as one of the most controversial modern papacies. In what became his motto, Pius X stated in 1903 that his papacy will undertake Instaurare Omnia in Christo, or "to restore all things to Christ." In his first encyclical (E Supremi Apostolatus, October 4, 1903), moreover, he established that overriding policy: "We champion the authority of God. His authority and Commandments should be recognized, deferred to, and respected."

Defense of the Church

Pius Xs political defense of his Church began with the appointment of Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val to begin reversing Leo XIIIs accommodating approach to secular governments. When the President of France (mile Loubet) visited Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, to whom the Church had been hostile since the Italian seizure of the Papal States in 1870, Pius X issued a condemnation against the French president. This led to a diplomatic break with France, and in 1906 France issued a Law of Separation, which the Pope denounced. The effect of this separation was the Churchs loss of its material support. Eventually, France expelled the Jesuits.

The pope adopted a similar position toward secular governments in other parts of the world: in Portugal, Ireland, Poland, Ethiopia, and a number of other states with large Catholic populations. All of his actions and statements angered the secular powers of these countries, as well as a few others, like England and Russia.

As secular authority challenged that of the papacy, Pius X became more aggressive. He suspended the Opera Dei Congressi, which coordinated the work of Catholic associations in Italy, he condemned the Le Sillon, a French social movement that tried to reconcile the Church with liberal political views. He also opposed trade unions that were not exclusively Catholic.

Liturgical Changes

One of the chief concerns of Pius Xs spiritual life, going back to his priesthood, was that of a pastoral nature. In his papacy, Pius X worked to increase devotion in the lives of the clergy and laity, particularly in the Divine Office and the Holy Mass.

As he had done in his previous ministries, Pius X worked for the restoration of the Church's own sacred music, the Gregorian chant. He had long believed that Catholics, priests and laity alike, needed to find beauty in their public prayer to give it a more sincere meaning. Thus, he encouraged the formation of the Gregorian scholae (or choirs), that would train those that participated in the Gregorian style.

Another of Pius X's passions in liturgy from his earlier ministries, and which became a priority in his pastoral efforts as pope, involved the Holy Communion. Pius X long believed in the importance and centrality of the sacred right of Holy Communion for all believers young and old. He was, moreover, a firm believer in its role in salvation. Thus, he is often noted to have said, "Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven." To this end, he encouraged frequent reception of Holy Communion. This extended to children, who had reached the age of discretion (about seven years old), as well, though he did not permit a return to the apostolic practice of infant communion. Moreover, as a devout believer in its role, Pius X knew Holy Communion could not be received in vain. Thus, in conjunction with his encouragement of frequent reception of Holy Communion, Pius X also emphasized frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and confession, in order that the Holy Communion would be taken worthily. Pius Xs devotion to communion would eventually earn him the honorific of Pope of the Blessed Sacrament, by which he is still known to many.

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Pope Pius X


Pius Xs notion of a pastoral ministry included the defense of his flock against heresy. He condemned what he termed 'modernists' and 'relativists' who endangered the Catholic faith (see for example his Anti-Modernist oath). This is perhaps the most controversial position of Pius Xs papacy.

Modernism and relativism, in terms of its presence in the Church, were theological trends that tried to assimilate modern philosophers like Kant into church theology, in much the same way Aristotelian philosophy was united with theology by the scholastics. "Modernists" justified this change with the idea that all beliefs of the church have evolved throughout its history and must continue to evolve. These notions were contrary to the dogmas and traditions of the Catholic Church, and St. Pius X, mindful of his duty to defend the unity of the Flock entrusted to him, labored with all his might against them.

In a decree, entitled Lamentabili sane exitu (or "A Lamentable Departure Indeed"), issued 3 July 1907, Pius X formally condemned sixty-five modernist or relativist propositions concerning the nature of the Church, revelation, biblical exegesis, the sacraments, and the divinity of Christ. This was followed by the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis (or "Feeding the Lords Flock"), which characterized Modernism as the synthesis of all heresies. Following these, Pius X ordered that all clerics take the Sacrorum antistitum, an oath against Modernism. He also encouraged the formation and efforts of Sodalitium Pianum (or League of St. Pius V), an anti-Modernist network of informants.

Pius Xs aggressive stance against modernism caused an internal devastation to the Church. Although only about forty clerics refused to take the oath, Catholic scholarship was substantially discouraged. Theologians that wanted to pursue secular lines of inquiry or lines of inquiry considered as being in line with modernism or relativism had to stop, or face a war with the papacy, and possibly even excommunication. However, Pius X, as with many popes and saints before him, would never succumb to the popular demands of the present age. Pius X's work against modernism would bring an era of spiritual prosperity in the Catholic Church for the next half-century.

Other Achievements

In addition to the political defense of the Church, liturgical changes, and anti-modernism, the papacy of Pius X saw the both the codification of the canon law, which up until that time consisted mostly of legal precedents, and the reorganization of the Roman Curia. Additionally, seminaries and their curricula were reformed.

Pius X beatified ten individuals and canonized four. Those beatified during Pius Xs pontificate, were: Blessed Marie Genevieve Meunier (1906), Blessed Rose Chretien (1906), Saint Valentin Faustino Berri Ochoa (1906), Blessed Clarus (1907), Blessed Zedislava Berka (1907), Saint John Bosco (1907), Blessed John van Ruysbroeck (1908), Blessed Andrew Nam Thung (1909), Saint Agatha Lin (1909), Saint Agnes De (1909), Saint Joan of Arc (1909), Saint John Eudes (1909). Those canonized by Pius X were Saint Alexander Sauli (1904), Saint Gerard Majella (1904), Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer (1909), and Saint Joseph Oriol (1909).

Pius X published sixteen encyclicals; among them was Vehementer nos on February 11, 1906.

It is interesting to point out that in the Prophecy of St Malachy, the collection of 112 prophecies about the popes, Pope Pius X appears as Ignis Ardens or "Burning Fire." Most have interpreted this as being clearly seen in the pontiffs reforms, firm traditionalism, and immense love for God and the Church.

Death & Burial

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Pope Pius X's tomb

In 1913, Pius X suffered a heart attack, and subsequently lived in the shadow of ill health. On 15 August 1914, Pius X fell ill on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, an illness from which he would not recover. Moreover, the events leading to the outbreak of World War I, over which the Pontiff was horrified, did not help his condition; for, it is reported, they caused the 79 year-old Pontiff to fall into a melancholy state. Thus, it is often noted that the First World War attributed, in part, to Pius X's subsequent death on 20 August 1914. It is interesting to note, that Pius X died almost simultaneously with the 'Black Pope,' the head of the order of Jesuits, Father Franz Xavier Wernz. (See The Times for 20 August 1914.)

Following his death, Pius X was buried in a simple and unadorned tomb in the crypt bellow St. Peter's Basilica. Pius X, moreover, left instructions that his body not be embalmed, a practice subsequent popes have followed. The simplicity of his burial was in accordance with his wishes, which can best be seen in a passage from his will: "I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor."


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Devotion of Pope Pius X

Although Pius X's elevation to sainthood took place in 1954, the events leading up to it began immediately with his death. The devotion of laypersons and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church from priests to cardinals was universal. Pius X had a clear and recognized reputation for holiness. His sanctity thus became an important issue among the devoted. This can be seen in a letter of 24 September 1916 by Msgr. Leo, Bishop of Nicotera and Tropea, which referred to Pius X as "a great saint and a great Pope." The number of pilgrims seeking to honor Pius X at his burial site also shows this, as the sheer number of them far exceeded what the crypt would hold. To accommodate this, "a small metal cross was set into the floor of the basilica," which read Pius Papa X, "so that the faithful might kneel down directly above the tomb" [6] (http://www.sspx.ca/Angelus/2004_April/Canonization_PiusX.htm). Masses were, moreover, held near his tomb until 1930.

Devotion to Pius X between the two world wars remained steadfast. On 14 February 1923, in honor of the 20th anniversary of his accession to the papal throne, the first moves toward his canonization began with the formal appointment of those who would carry out his cause. The event was marked by the erecting of a monument in his memory in St. Peter's Basilica. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, in 1935, the Catholic faithful made pilgrimages to the Vatican and to Riese. On the 25th anniversary of his death, a procession from throughout the dioceses to Pius X's tomb occurred. On 19 August 1939, Pius XII delivered a tribute to Pius X at Castel Gandolfo. And on 12 February [[1943], a further development of Pius X's cause was declared.

On 19 May 1944, Pope Pius X's coffin was exhumed and was taken to the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix in St. Peter's Basilica for the canonical examination. Upon opening the coffin, the examiners found the body of Pius X completely preserved, despite the fact that he had died 30 years before and was not embalmed. According to accounts, "no part of the skeleton was uncovered, no bones were exposed" and that "all of the body" of Pius X "was in an excellent state of conservation" [7] (http://www.sspx.ca/Angelus/2004_April/Canonization_PiusX.htm). After the examination and the end of the apostolic process towards Pius X's cause, Pope Pius XII bestowed the title of Venerable Servant of God upon Pius X. His body was exposed for 45 days, before being placed back in his tomb.

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Prayer card of Blessed Pope Pius X

Following this, the process towards beatification began, and thus investigations by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (S.C.R.) into miracles performed by intercessory work of Pius X subsequently took place. The S.C.R. would eventually recognize two miracles. The first involved Sr. Marie-Frangoise Deperras, a nun who had bone cancer and was cured on 7 December 1928 during a novena in which a relic of Pius X was placed on her chest. The second involved Sr. Benedetta De Maria, who had cancer, and in a novena started in 1938, she eventually touched a relic and was immediately cured.

Pope Pius XII officially approved the two miracles on 11 February 1951; and on 4 March, Pius XII, in his De Tuto, declared that the Church could proceed in the beatification of the Venerable Pope Pius X. His beatification took place on 3 June 1951 at St. Peter's before 23 cardinals, hundreds of bishops and archbishops, and a crowd of 100,000 faithful. During his beatification decree, Pius XII referred to Pius X as "Pope of the Eucharist", in honor of Pius X's expansion of the sacred rite to children. The Blessed Pius X's feast day was established as 3 September.

Following his beatification, on 17 February 1952, Pius X's body was transferred from its tomb to the Vatican basilica and placed under the altar of the chapel of the Presentation. As it was in 1944, Pius X's body was not "corrupted" by decay, a condition that remains true even to this day. The Pontiff's body lies within a glass and bronze-work sarcophagus for the faithful to see.

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The canonisation of Pope Pius X in 1954
The incorrupt body of Pope Pius X, which though not embalmed in 1914 had not decayed, was displayed in a glass coffin in St. Peter's Basilica for the ceremony

On 29 May 1954, less than three years after his beatification, Pope Pius X was canonized, following the S.C.R.'s recognition of two more miracles. The first involved Francesco Belsami, an attorney from Naples who had a fatal pulmonary abscess, who was cured upon placing a picture of the Blessed Pope Pius X upon his chest. The second miracle involved Sr. Maria Ludovica Scorcia, a nun who was afflicted with a serious neurotropic virus, and who, upon several novenas, was entirely cured. Upon acceptance of this by Pope Pius XII, and before a crowd of about 800,000 [[8] (http://www.museosanpiox.it/international+eng+engpio_x8.html)] of the faithful and church officials at St. Peter's Basilica, The Blessed Pius X was named Saint Pius X.

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Prayer card of St. Pope Pius X

This event was more than religious and significant to the Catholic faithful; rather it was historic. Pius X was the first Pope to be sanctified since the 17th century.

Because of his devotion to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, St. Pius X is often memorialized and celebrated as Saint Pius X, Pope of the Blessed Sacrament. Prayer cards often depict the sanctified Pontiff with instruments of communion. This can be seen in the Prayer to Saint Pius X: "Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought 'to restore all things in Christ.' Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life, and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist in sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her. Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the religious life. Dispel confusion and hatred and anxiety, and incline our hearts to peace and concord, so that all nations will place themselves under the sweet reign of Christ. Amen. Saint Pius X, pray for me" [9] (http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pray0447.htm).

In addition to being celebrated as the "Pope of the Blessed Sacrament," St. Pius X is also the patron saint of the emigrant from Treviso, and the Catholic Esperantists. He is honored at numerous parishes in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Canada.

St. Pius X's feast day was changed from 3 September to 21 August on 14 February 1969 by Pope Paul VI as an obligatory memorial to the sanctity of Pius X in the universal calendar.

Papal Coat of Arms

Arms of Pius X
Arms of Pius X

The papal arms of Pius X are composed of the traditional elements of all papal heraldry prior to Pope Benedict XVI: the shield, the papal tiara, and the keys. The tiara and keys are typical symbols used in the coats of arms of pontiffs, which symbolize their authority.

The shield of Pius X's coat of arms is charged in two basic parts, as it is per fess. In chief (the top part of the shield) shows the arms of the Patriarch of Venice, which Pius X was from 1893-1903. It consists of the lion of St. Mark proper and haloed in silver upon a silver-white background, displaying a book with the inscription of PAX TIBI MARCE, which refers to the motto of Venice Pax tibi Marce, Evangelista meus, which is Latin for Peace to you, Mark my evangelist. This motto refers to Venice as the final resting place of Saint Mark. Renditions of this part of Pius X's arms depict the lion either with or without a sword, and sometimes only one side of the book is written on.

The remainder of the shield displays the arms Pius X took as Bishop of Mantua: an anchor proper cast into a stormy sea (the blue and silver wavy lines), lit up by a single six-pointed star of gold. In his first address as Bishop of Mantua, Pius X informs us of the meaning behind this part of his shield. He stated that he was inspired by Hebrews 6:19, which states that the hope we have is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Pius X, then Bishop Sarto, stated that "hope is the sole companion of my life, the greatest support in uncertainty, the strongest power in situations of weakness." This part of the shield, therefore, symbolizes the source of Pius X's spiritual strength, hope.

Although not present upon his arms, the only motto attributed to Pius X is the one for which he is best remembered: instaurare omnia in Christo (Latin for "To restore all things in Christ").


Pius Xs anti-Modernist stance has forever tarnished his papacy for secularists. However, for many Catholics, he is still regarded as a beloved Pope and defender of the faith. He has long been thought to have defended the souls of many people who would have perished due to the supposed modernist heresies, and for this reason he is adored by the Catholic faithful. His emphasis on Holy Communion, and its expansion to children, although controversial to Protestants, remain a cherished achievement of his papacy.

The Society of St. Pius X is an organization that has split away the Roman Catholic Church, because the Church, in its opinion, has gone astray from its essential values; its name refers to Pius X's traditionalism. This group still celebrates the Tridentine Mass in Ecclesiastical Latin.

Preceded by:
Succeeded by:
Benedict XV

Template:End box

See also

de:Pius X. (Papst) et:Pius X es:Po X eo:Pio la 10-a fr:Pie X it:Papa Pio X la:Pius X nl:Paus Pius X ja:ピウス10世 (ローマ教皇) no:Pius X pl:Papież Pius X pt:Papa Pio X ro:Papa Pius al X-lea ru:Пий X, папа sv:Pius X


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