Q: Any idea why the new edition of the Roman Missal calls St. Pio of Pietrelcina “Pius” instead of Pio? Just when Theresa the Little Flower is restored to Thérèse, we are going in the opposite direction in St. Pio’s case. — N.W., Costa Mesa, California
A: While not privy to the rationale of the translation team, I can suppose many good reasons for this option.
It is true that St. Pio is popularly known according to the Italian form of his name, even outside of Italy. However, in Italian this name is the same form as that used for 12 popes, some of whom are also saints of the universal calendar. Thus in Italy saints Pius I, V, X and Blessed Pius IX are known as Pio I, V, X and IX.
Francis Forgione took the religious name of Friar Pius in January 1903. Perhaps he did so to honor one of the saintly popes of that name or the previous Holy Father, Pius IX. The future Pius X would not be elected until August of that same year.
Since the choice of the name Pius was probably deliberately related to the papal name, it is congruous to maintain this connection by keeping the same form in the missal.
In spite of its popularity with popes, and the great devotion toward “Saint Padre Pio,” the name has never been widespread. While available records are not exact, it would seem that Pius, meaning “pious” or “willing to perform religious duties,” has never ranked among the 1,000 most popular names in the English-speaking world. Even in Italy there are about 17,600 men with the name Pio (less than 0.03% of the country’s population), No. 366 in order of popularity.
Those few actually graced with the name Pius celebrate their patron saint on July 11, feast of Pope St. Pius I, a second-century martyr.
Thérèse, on the other hand, is the given name of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. It is true that this is merely the French form of the Spanish name Teresa, but the Little Flower has been known as Thérèse since her story first became known.
Likewise, whereas Pio would be a novelty in English, Therese exists as an acceptable, albeit far less popular, alternative to Teresa and Theresa. Its use peaked in the 1950s, although never reaching more than 232 per million babies, unlike the almost 6,500 per million reached by the other two forms in the same time frame.
Therefore, lacking any definitive information to the contrary, I believe that these reasons explain the different options taken with regard to the two names.
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