On Pope St. Pius X

A Pontificate «Characterized by a Notable Effort of Reform»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,
Today I would like to reflect on the figure of my predecessor St. Pius X, whose liturgical memorial will be observed Saturday, to emphasize some of his characteristics that can also be useful for the pastors and faithful of our time.
Giuseppe Sarto — that was his name — was born in Riese, Treviso, in 1835 to a peasant family. After studying in the Seminary of Padua, he was ordained a priest at age 23. First he was vice-parish priest in Tombolo, then parish priest in Salzano, then canon of the cathedral of Treviso with the office of episcopal chancellor and spiritual director of the diocesan seminary. During those years of rich and generous pastoral experience, the future Pontiff showed that profound love of Christ and of the Church, that humility and simplicity and that great charity toward the neediest, which were characteristics of his whole life.

In 1884 he was appointed bishop of Mantua and in 1893 patriarch of Venice. On Aug. 4, 1903, he was elected Pope, a ministry that he accepted with hesitation, because he did not think he measured up to the loftiness of such a task.

St. Pius X’s pontificate has left an indelible mark on the history of the Church, and was characterized by a notable effort of reform, synthesized in the motto «Instaurare omnia in Christo,» (To Renew All Things in Christ.) His intervention, in fact, embraced various ecclesial ambits. From the beginning he dedicated himself to the reorganization of the Roman Curia; then he gave a green light to the work of writing the Code of Canon Law, promulgated by his successor, Benedict XV. Moreover, he promoted the revision of studies and of the iter of formation for future priests; he also founded several regional seminaries, equipped with good libraries and competent professors.

Another important sector was the doctrinal formation of the People of God. In the years he was a parish priest, he himself wrote a catechism, and during his episcopacy in Mantua he worked to establish a single catechism, if not universal, at least Italian. As a genuine pastor, he understood that the situation of the age, also because of the phenomenon of emigration, made necessary a catechism that all the faithful could refer to, regardless of the place and circumstances of life. As Pontiff he prepared a text of Christian doctrine for the Diocese of Rome, which later spread to the whole of Italy and the world. The catechism called «of Pius X» was for many a sure guide in learning the truths of the faith because of its simple, clear and precise language and its explanatory effectiveness.
He dedicated notable attention to the reform of the liturgy, in particular sacred music, to lead the faithful to a life of more profound prayer and to fuller participation in the sacraments. In the motu proprio «Tra le sollecitudini» (1903), he stated that the true Christian spirit has its first and indispensable source in active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church (cf. ASS 36 [1903], 531). That is why he recommended the frequent reception of the sacraments, fostering daily, well-prepared reception of Holy Communion, and opportunely moving earlier children’s First Communion to around 7 years of age, «when,» he said, «the child begins to reason.» (cf. S. Congr. de Sacramentis, Decretum Quam singulari: ASS 2 [1910], 582).
Faithful to the task of confirming brethren in the faith, St. Pius X intervened with determination in the face of tendencies that manifested themselves in the theological realm at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, condemning Modernism, to defend the faithful from erroneous concepts and to promote scientific reflection on revelation in harmony with the tradition of the Church. On May 7, 1909, with the apostolic letter «Vinea electa,» he founded the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The last months of his life were embittered by the outbreak of the War. An appeal to the Catholics of the world launched on Aug. 2, 1914, to express «the acute grief» of that hour, was the suffering cry of a father who sees his children confront one another. He died shortly after, on Aug. 20, and his reputation for sanctity soon began to spread among the Christian people.
Dear brothers and sisters, St. Pius X teaches all of us that, at the foundation of our apostolic action, in the various fields in which we work, there must always be an intimate personal union with Christ, which must be cultivated and enhanced day after day. This is the kernel of all his teaching, of all his pastoral commitment. Only if we are enamored of the Lord will we be able to lead men to God and open them to his merciful love, and thus open the world to God’s mercy.
 [In English, he said:] 
My dear brothers and sisters, today we recall Pope Saint Pius the Tenth, whose feast we celebrate this coming Saturday. He left an indelible mark in very many aspects of the Church’s life and activity, his overarching goal being to «renew all things in Christ» through our intimate personal union with our Saviour. By Pope Saint Pius’s prayers, may we grow daily in love for Christ and help open others to his love. God’s abundant blessings upon you all!

© Copyright 2010 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[At the end of the audience, the Pope made this final appeal:] 
My thoughts go at this moment to the beloved peoples of Pakistan, affected recently by great floods, which have caused numerous victims and left many families homeless.
While I entrust to the merciful goodness of God all those who have passed away so tragically, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all those suffering because of this calamity. May these brothers of ours, so harshly tested, not lack our solidarity and the concrete aid of international solidarity.
 [Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation