Birthday: June 2, 1835
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Riese Pio X, Italy
Famous as: Head of the Catholic Church (1903-1914)
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: Giovanni Battista Sarto (1792–1852)
mother: argarita Sanson (1813–1894)
siblings: Angelo Sarto, Anna Sarto, Antonia Dei Bei-Sarto, Giuseppe Sarto, Lucia Boschin-Sarto, Maria Sarto, Pietro Sarto, Rosa Sarto, Teresa Parolin-Sarto
Died on: August 20, 1914
place of death: Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Founder/Co-Founder: Pontifical Biblical Institute
Who was Pope Pius X?
Pope Pius X, or Giuseppe Sarto, served as the pope of the Catholic Church from August 1903 to 1914. Pius X is remembered for his marked opposition to modernist interpretations of the Catholic faith. He promoted orthodox theology and established the 1917 ‘Code of Canon Law.’ Pius X encouraged the Holy Communion and believed that the Catholic religion should be protected from deviations such as Agnosticism and Immanentism. He was a staunch follower of Saint Thomas Aquinas. His rigid principles reflected in his strong opposition to the secular government of France, leading to the separation of the church and the government in the country. He declared mixed marriages sacramentally invalid and also dismissed the ‘Opera dei Congressi.’ He died in 1914, at the onset of World War I, and was later beatified and canonized at ‘St. Peter’s Basilica.’
Childhood & Early Life
Pope Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, on June 2, 1835, in Riese, in the Province of Treviso, in Lombardy-Venetia, Austrian Empire (presently Italy), to Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita (née Sanson). His father was a postman.
Giuseppe was the second of the 10 children of his parents. It is said, Giuseppe walked 3.75 miles to reach school every day.
He had three brothers, Giuseppe (who died in 1834, after 6 days of his birth), Pietro, and Angelo, and six sisters, Teresa, Rosa, Antonia, Maria, Lucia, and Anna.
Giuseppe finished his elementary education and then took private lessons in Latin under Don Tito Fusaroni, the arch-priest of his town. Following this, he studied at the gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto for 4 years.
In 1850, he was tonsured by the Bishop of Treviso. He then got a scholarship of the Diocese of Treviso, after which he studied in the seminary of Padua and completed his philosophical, classical, and theological studies with distinction.
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Introduction to Priesthood
He was ordained as a priest in 1858. He served as a chaplain at Tombolo for 9 years. Back then, he did all the work of a parish priest, as the pastor was old and weak.
He studied Saint Thomas and the canon law thoroughly. He also established a night school and often preached in other towns.
In 1867, he became the arch-priest of Salzano, a borough of the Diocese of Treviso. There, he restored the church and funded the maintenance of the hospital. He also helped the needy during the cholera outbreak there.
He became a canon of the cathedral of Treviso in 1875. He also worked as a spiritual director and rector of the seminary, the examiner of the clergy, and the vicar-general.
Under his authority, students of public schools could receive religious instruction. In 1878, after the death of Bishop Zanelli, he was made the vicar-capitular.
He became the Bishop of Mantua on November 10, 1884. He was consecrated 6 days later. His main responsibility was the creation of the clergy at the seminary, where he taught dogmatic theology and moral theology.
He wanted people to follow Thomas Aquinas and distributed copies of "Summa theologica." He also propagated the ‘Gregorian Chant.’
He arranged a diocesan synod in 1887. In June 1893, Leo XIII made him a cardinal under the ‘San Bernardo alle Terme.’ After 3 days, he was made the Patriarch of Venice, and at the same time, he held the title of the Apostolic Administrator of Mantua.
However, he was made to wait for 18 months before he could take control of his new diocese, as the Italian government claimed its right to nominate the new diocese, as was earlier exercised by the emperor of Austria.
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The government, amidst rising dissatisfaction, also refused to recognize many other bishops, thus leading to many vacant sees. Finally, after minister Crispi assumed power, the government retreated.
In Venice, he established the faculty of canon law in the seminary. In 1898, he arranged a diocesan synod. He patronized Lorenzo Perosi and also opposed a few Christian-Democrats.
Reforms as Pope
After Leo XIII’s death, the cardinals gathered and elected Giuseppe as his successor, on August 4, 1903. He received 55 out of 60 votes and was coronated on August 9, 1903.
He believed in the motto "instaurare omnia in Christo." He advised everyone to receive Holy Communion often and asked the sick not to observe fasts. He also lowered the age for the first Communion. He held the ‘Eucharistic Congress’ of 1905 in Rome.
He was against new theological methods, such as Agnosticism and Immanentism. In 1907, he published the decree of "Lamentabili" (or “the Syllabus of Pius X”), through which he condemned 65 propositions.
On September 8, 1907, the Encyclical "Pascendi" was published. It condemned Modernism. He also suggested the formation of an official body of "censors" of books and of a "Committee of Vigilance" to counter modernism.
Through the "Sacrorum Antistitum," Pius X stated that those associated with the holy ministry or ecclesiastical institutions should take an oath to reject the errors denounced in the Encyclical or in the "Lamentabili." Pius X also led to the formation of the ‘Biblical Institute’ in Rome.
On March 19, 1904, he formed a congregation of cardinals to reform canon laws and create a set of universal laws for all regions. This led to the formation of the 1917 ‘Code of Canon Law.’
By the decree of "Quam Singulari," on August 15, 1910, he stated that the first Communion of children should not be delayed for too long.
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Pius X also reformed the ‘Roman Curia,’ by forming the “Sapienti consilio.” He established regional seminaries, which would serve as a common point for the sees of a particular region. This led to the closure of many small seminaries.
By a decree of the ‘Sacred Congregation of the Consistory,’ on August 20, 1910, he instructed the removal of parish priests when required. He also brought about a decree on November 18, 1910, by which the clergy were barred from administration of social organizations.
Actions Against Secular Governments
Pius X was against the lenient approach of Leo XIII toward secular governments and thus appointed Rafael Merry del Val as the Cardinal Secretary of State.
He refused to meet the French president, and in 1905, France declared the separation of the church and the state, by the Law of Separation.
The church lost government funding in France. France severed all diplomatic ties with the Vatican.
The Pope was averse to secular governments in other countries, such as Portugal, Poland, Ireland, and Ethiopia. In the process, he also angered the U.K. and Russia.
In 1908, through the papal decree “Ne Temere,” he complicated the concept of mixed marriages. The decree stated that marriages not performed by a Catholic priest were legal but not sacramental.
Priests were given the authority to refuse performing mixed marriages or to set conditions, such as the promise that the children would be raised Catholic.
As secular powers opposed this decree, Pius X suspended the ‘Opera dei Congressi,’ which oversaw Catholic organizations in Italy. He also condemned ‘Le Sillon,’ which was a French social movement that attempted to reach a middle ground between the church and the liberals. Pius X was also against the trade unions that were not totally Catholic.
Pius X lifted some decrees that barred Italian Catholics from voting. However, he never fully recognized the Italian government.
In 1913, Pius X had a heart attack. Following this, he mostly suffered from poor health. The following year, he fell sick on the ‘Feast of the Assumption of Mary’ (August 15). He died at the ‘Apostolic Palace’ in Rome, on August 20, 1914, the day the German army marched into Brussels.
Pius X was buried in the crypt underneath ‘St. Peter's Basilica.’ The usual practice was to remove organs of Popes to assist the embalming process. Pius X, however, had previously barred this practice in his case.
He was beatified on June 3, 1951, by Pope Pius XII, at ‘Saint Peter's Basilica,’ Vatican City. He was canonized by Pius XII on May 29, 1954, at the same venue.
The ‘Society of Saint Pius X’ was named after him. A statue bearing his name is kept at ‘St. Peter's Basilica.’ His birth town, Riese, was renamed “Riese Pio X,” following his death.