Museo San Pio X - Salzano -

Life of St. Pius X

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Translation by Nausica Bonaldo

THE BISHOP OF MANTOVA (November 1884-June 1893)

Five months later, on 18th April 1885, he arrived in the diocese of Mantova: a “difficult” diocese that Gianpaolo Romanato described as an “adrifted diocese”[23].

Two intransigent bishops failed the guidance of this diocese: Father Pietro Rota (St. Prospero, Reggio Emilia, 1805-Rome, 1890), from 1871 to 1879, and Father Giovanni Maria Berengo (Venice, 1820-Udine, 1896), from 1879 to 1884. The first one renounced the episcopate in Mantova and the second one moved to the seat of Udine.

In the society there was misbelief, sectarianism and anticlericalism forsted by the presence of the freemasonry. The other cultured society had scientific, rational and positivist ideas.

The main Italian positivist was Roberto Ardigò (1828-1920); he was the professor of the seminary of Mantova and he was canonic, after retiring from the seminary in 1871. It is the most famous event, but also other 10 priest retired the previous year.

He “rebuilt” the seminary, which had been closed between 1870 and 1880; in 1886 his work became successful.

He wanted to “rebuilt” the local parish communities, following his pastoral lines, that had already been realised and tested in the Veneto. They focused on an active sacramental life and on the teaching of the Christian doctrine. This project should have some influence also on the civil field of the society of Mantova, that was influenced from the anarchic-socialist movement “La boje”, in order to found a Societas Christiana, through the stimulus to the evangelical activities.

On 18th August 1885 the new bishop summoned the Pastoral Visit of the diocese (the second one began on 25th May 1889). Its religious action influenced a lot of fields.

On 12th October 1885 he ordered the foundation of the Christian Doctrine School in each parish and the explanation of the catechism to the inhabitants on Sundays and on the holidays of obligation. Sometimes he substituted a priest for the catechism in some parishes and he controlled the teaching during the catechism.

On 15th October 1887 he dismissed all the singers of the choir of the cathedral and founded the school of the seminarist singers. He met Lorenzo Perosi (1872-1956), who explained him the music of the famous abbey in Solesmes, the liturgical renewal and the development of the Gregorian chant French centre. The bishop recommended the Gregorian chant to make it popular, in order to sing it during the liturgical celebrations.

He wrote: “I recommend the Gregorian chant, above all the way of singing it and making it popular. I’d like all the believers to sing the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei as they sing the Lauretane Litanies and the Tantum Ergo. This would be for me one of the achievements of the Holy Music, because the believers could be able to keep the mercy and the devotion”. He wrote the same thought in a letter to Father Giuseppe Callegari, during his Venetian period, when he reached a deeper strategy: “I imagine thousands of voices singing the angels’ mass in a church in the country-side [...] and I’m enraptured, as I am always when I listen to the people singing the Tantum Ergo, the Te Deum and the Litanies”.

He put the people on their guard from the Modernism: on 7th February 1887 he accused those who “even if they superficially know the science of the religion or practise it, expect to be the teachers and [...] declare, the old madness of the Cross forgot, that the dogma of the faith must adapt itself to the exigences of the new philosophy”; the English Jesuit George Tyrrell (1861-1909) and the French exegete and historian of the religions Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) suggested this new philosophy. There were other followers in Italy: Father Romolo Murri (1870-1944) and Father Ernesto Buonaiuti (1881-1946), the novelist Antonio Fogazzaro (Vicenza, 1842-1911), Giovanni Semeria from the Liguria (Coldiroli, 1867-Sparanise, 1931), Giovanni Genocchi (Ravenna, 1860-Roma, 1926), the Roman judge Adolfo Lepri (1881-1948), Mario Augusto Martini (1885-1962) and Guido Manzelli (1888-1960).

The stimulus to the reform of the diocese led to the convocation of a diocesan synod, that hadn’t taken place in Mantova for two centuries: it took place on 16th February 1887, it was celebrated from 10th to 12th September 1888. So the diocese of Mantova had the Magna Charta, that dated its religious life and cancelled all the things accumulated from ‘700 to 1887, because of someone, who didn’t do the right pastoral choices.

He took care of the Christian Association and helped the foundation of the Italian Christian Union for the Social Studies; Father Giuseppe Callegari, Giuseppe Toniolo (Treviso, 1845-Pisa, 1918) and Stanislao Medolago Albani (Bergamo, 1851-1921) founded it on 29th December 1889.

He taught to the priests to be the promoters of the daily Communion and of the admission of the children to the Eucharist.

The bishop tried to stop the transoceanic emigrations and if he didn’t managed, he made the parishes to take care of the people who were far away.

His life was simply: he lived with his unmarried sisters, who had to do the housework. He helped the poor people and he welcomed everyone, without distinction of class, age or condition.

After nine years the diocese was rebuilt and based on renewed basis. The pastoral work of the bishop aroused consents and honours: the cardinal from Mantova Lucido Maria Parocchi, who consecrated him as bishop, and vicar of Leone XIII controlled him and described him “the best bishop in the Lombardia”. He was proposed the cardinal’s dignity, but he refused it. The State Secretary Mariano Rampolla told him that the Pope would have been happy if he had accepted that title. So he accepted it. He became cardinal of Mantova, with the title of St. Bernardo alle Terme, on 12th June 1893 and three days after he became the patriarch of Venice. After the cardinal Domenico Agostini’s death, patriarch from 1877 to 1891, the seat had been vacant, because a lot of bishops refused it. The royal Exequatur didn’t arrived because of the opposition of Francesco Crispi, who didn’t agree with the right of the royal appointment for the patriarchate of Venice.

On 5th September 1894 the king signed the decree and on 24th November 1894 Sarto could sit on the throne of St. Lorenzo Giustiniani. The Venetians welcomed him with a lot of great feasts: only the liberal-democratic administrators didn’t take part in and closed the town hall.

Father Giuseppe Sarto bishop of Mantova

Father Giuseppe Sarto bishop of Mantova (1884-1893).


[23] ROMANATO G., “Pio X, Pope Sarto’s life”, Rusconi, Milano, 1992, pages 145-186.
In DAL-GAL G., “Pope St. Pio X. The official life of the Apply for the Canonization”, “Il Messaggero di St. Antonio”, Padova, 1954, pages 56-57 both the information can be found.

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Last update: 21.06.2009

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