Museo San Pio X - Salzano -

Life of St. Pius X

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Translation by Nausica Bonaldo

POPE PIUS X (4th August 1903-20th August 1914)

When on 20th July 1903 Pope Leone XIII died, the cardinal Sarto on 26th July left for Rome. He said to the Venetians: “I’ll come back, dead or alive!”.

The ones who were likely to be elected Pope were Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, State secretary of Leone XIII, and the cardinal Gotti: but the Pope had already been chosen. Ernesto Vercesi reported a consideration of Leone XIII, who was asked: “why wasn’t cardinal Consalvi elected as a Pope, after the death of Pio VII, seen that he served a lot the Church? Leone answered: “Consalvi lasted too much”. A lot of people in the Holy College wished a renewal. They asked a Pope who allowed it.[28]

The cardinal Sarto entered the conclave on 31st July in the afternoon; the first voting showed different preferences. On 4th August, late in the morning, he was elected Pope with 50 out of 62 possible votes (80,6%). He chose the name Pio, reminding all the Popes, who “during the last centuries had bravely fought the sects and the mistakes” with this name: Pio VI, Pio VII and Pio IX.

His program for his pontificate was written in the encyclical “E supremi apostolatus cathedra” (4th October 1903), which contains also the motto “Instaurare omnia in Christo”.[29]

He immediately began the realization of his program: from his motto "Between the solicitudes" (22nd November 1903) for the reform of the holy music, to his motto “Since the first” (18th December 1903) for the reorganization of the Christian Popular Association, to the establishment of the “Commissum nobis” (20th January 1904), which condemns the veto in the Conclave, that is the right of the European powers of being opposed to the election of an unwelcomed cardinal: it was used by the cardinal Puzyna, from Cracovia, in the conclave, which elected Pio X.

“Ad diem illum” (2nd February 1904, for the fifth anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the letter “Quum arcano” (11th February 1904), where he summoned the apostolic visit to Rome[30], and the decree “Constat apud omnes” (7th March 1904), which contains an iniziative for the apostolic visit to the Italian dioceses, followed the encyclical.

Five days later he wrote the encyclical “Iucunda sane” (12th March 1904) for the XIII Centenarian of St. Gregorio Magno and, 12 days later, the “Arduum sane munus” (19th March 1904) for the compilation of the new Code of the Canon Law: only his successor, Benedetto XV, presented it on 25th May 1917, the Whitsun Day.

The new Pope began to reduce the “Non expedit” and to talk to the moderate political factions to avoid the election of some radical or socialist exponent. He decided to dissolve the Congress Service, when it began its decline; with “The circular letter” (1st March 1905) he reintroduced the Independent Christian Democracy, in order to control the laity, and with the encyclical “The firm intention” (11th June 1905) he reorganized the Christian Association in Italy. He thought that his work was the extension of the work of the clergy and he knew the importance of the laity in the Christian reconquest of the society: his pastoral pragmatism of parish in Salzano began to come to the surface.

In 1905 he wrote the encyclical “Acerbo nimis” (15th April 1905) about the teaching of the catechism, one of the numerous interventions in this field, owing to he was called “the Pope of the catechism”. But he was also “the Pope of the Eucharist”, because the Eucharist was the main topic of the decree “Sacra Tridentina Synodus” (20th December 1905), regarding the frequent and daily Eucharist.
Regarding the international relationship, the French question broke out; after the “unfair laws” against the Church, passed in France between 1880 and 1903, and the disagreements, that followed the visit to the Quirinale of the French president ?mile Loubet (1838-1929) in 1904, on 9th December 1905 the French parliament passed the law for the separation between the State and the Church. Pio X answered with two encyclicals: the “Vehementer”, to condemn the separation of the State and the Church in France (11th February 1906), and the “Gravissimo officii munere”, to condemn the cultural laws proposed by the French government (10th August 1906).

There were other laws applying to the disagreements between the State and the Church. In other countries, as in Ecuador and, some years later, in Portugal, the State passed the “persecution laws” against the Church: Pio X showed his regret with the letter “Acre nafariumque bellum” (14 May 1905) against the laws passed in Ecuador and, six years later, with the encyclical “Jamdudum in Lusitania”, against the laws passed in Portugal (24th May 1911).

He also reformed the Italian seminaries, through an authoritative measure realized on 16th January 1906.

In the same year he wrote the encyclical “Pieni l’animo”, about the education of the young clergy (28th July 1906) and the decree “Post editum”, about the Communion of the not empty patients (7th December 1906).

After revealing the position of the Saint See regarding the French government, Pio X, with the encyclical “Une fois encore” (6th January 1907), condemned 65 modernist propositions in the decree “Lamentabili sane exitu” (3rd July 1907). He condemned the modernist movement with the encyclical “Pascendi dominici gregis” (8th September 1907), calling it the summary of all the heresies and opening a period of the history of the contemporary Church that hasn’t been understood yet. In 1907 this fight culminated: those facts were analysed during the researches for his beatification[31]. The witnesses to the canon process agree on saying that he “always showed a great energy, justified by the danger that hung over the Church, and with the Modernists showed insuperable charity and mercy. [...] He wanted that all the possible means were tied to warn and convince them of their mistakes, asking that the charity be always done. [...] He followed them in a fatherly way and helped them if they had some economical problems”[32]. In the encyclical there is an antimodernist oath (1st September 1910), to prove the constant solicitude of Pio X for the integrity of the “Depositum Fidei”[33].

He had always been described as a “retrograde” and “reactionary” Pope, owing to his antagonism for the new ideas and the new ferments in the Church.

He made also some reforming interventions as the apostolic constitution “Sapienti consilio”, which reformed the Roman curia (29th June 1908), the letter “Quidquid consilii” about the union of the oriental Churches (8th July 1908), and the apostolic letter to the oriental bishops about the union of the Churches (26th December 1910), that put in evidence one of the most interesting ecumenical aspects of the pontificate of Pio X.

The exhortation to the clergy “Haerent animo”, written for the celebration of his priestly jubilee (4th August 1908), had an effective influence.

With the apostolic constitution “Promulgandi pontificias”, on 29th September 1908 he founded the periodical “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”, the only ufficial press of the Saint See for the doctrinal and disciplinary problems, which substituted the previous “Acta Sanctae Sedis”, founded by Pio X in 1865.

The following encyclicals are: the “Communium rerum”, in the VIII centenary of St. Anselmo d’Aosta (21st April 1910); the letter “Vinea electa”, about the foundation of the biblical Institute (7th May 1909); the “Editae saepe”, in the III centenary of St. Carlo Borromeo (26th May 1910); “Quam singulari Christus amore” on the Eucharist for the children (8th August 1910), one of the most famous Eucharist encyclical.

Some of his social interventions are: the inauguration of the Christian Social School in Bergamo on 15 August 1910; the letter “Notre charge apostolique” of 25th August 1910: in this letter he condemned the theories of the revue “Sillon” by Marc Sangnier (Paris, 1873-1950), who immediately accepted the will of the Pope. During his pontificate he organized and created a favourable climate in the Church for the emigration.

Pope Pio X wrote: the apostolic constitution “Divino afflatu”, which reformed the Roman breviary (1st November 1911); the apostolic constitution “Etsi nos”, which reformed the vicariate of Rome (1st January 1912); the encyclical “Lacrimabili statu”, about the inhuman situation of the indios in the Latin America (7th June 1912); the encyclical “Singulari quadam”, about the working-class trade unions in Germany (24th September 1912); the apostolic letter “Universis Christifidelibus” (8th March 1913), for the XVI Centenary of Constantino.

Pope Sarto never interfered in the scientific field, even if the period when he lived revealed a lot of changes of some basis of the physics, with the theory by Max Plank (1858-1947), of the restricted relativity (1905) by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and the atomic interpretation of the physic reality (1903-1913) by Joseph John Thomson (1856-1940), Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962).

It is strange because Giuseppe Sarto had always been interested in the science, especially in the mathematics and the astronomy: he had been very good at studying this subject, he built some sundials and he followed the work of the “Specola vaticana”, founded by his predecessor[34].

His problematic health led him to death. On 2nd August 1914 he sent the exhortation “Dun Europa” to all the Christians to ask the end of the European war, that was the beginning of the First World War: it is an appeal to stop the hostilities for the interest of the humanity and for the peace. It is one of the most important wills of peace, which the future generations have been given.

He died on 20th August 1914, at 1.16 a.m. He was buried in the Vatican caves and on his tomb the words PIUS P.P. X. – DIVES ET PAUPER – MITIS ET HUMILIS CORDE – REIQUE CATHOLICAE VINDEX FORTIS – INSTAURARE OMNIA IN CHRISTO – SATAGENS – PIE OBIIT DIE XX AUG. A.D. MCMXIV were written: they summarize a life and a pontificate lived in the shade of the cross and in the poverty[35].

Pio X (Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto), Pope from 1903 to 1914

Pio X (Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto), Pope from 1903 to 1914.

[28] VERCESI E., “Three Popes”, Edizioni Athena, Milan, 1929, page 175.

[29] The motto is in “Ephesians 1, 10”, but there are a lot of attributing translations and meanings. One of them is: “The plan of recapitulating in Christ all the things, the ones in the sky and in the earth. In his benevolence he had prearranged it in him, to realize it in that period” (BELTRAME QUATTROCCHI P., “The psalms, Christian prayers, choral Salterio”, IX edition, Benedictine, St. Agata sui due Golfi (NA), 1986, page 409). Another concept is in “Colossesi 3, 11”: “Here there aren’t neither Greeks or Jews, circumcisions or not circumcisions, barbarians or Scita, slaves or freers, but Christ is everything in everyone” (“The Holy Bible”, official edition of the CEI, Ed. Italian Episcopal Conference, UECI, 1974, pages 1-175).

The motto of Pio X “Instaurare omnia in Christo” has always been translated in “Restoring everything in Christ”, with an absolutist and reactionary meaning. If it was transferred in the period when he lived, it would have a modern meaning, that is “Founding again everything in Christ”. This new meaning is deeper and wider and its spirit had been put in evidence only during the Vatican Council II: it invited the people to be Christians only if they found everytime their life on the words of Christ. Today the motto is translated in summing up, uniting, joining, founding and founding again. In Germany it is translated in “Alles in Christi erneuern”, that is “Renewing everything in Christ”.

[30] Pio X was the only Pope, who, after the Council of Trento, decided to do a pastoral visit to Rome, because he was the bishop of that city. The intervention of Gianpaolo Romanato and Silvio Tramontin in AA. VV., “Note-book of the Foundation Giuseppe Sarto”, 1st January 1990, pages 19-45, in particular page 32, must be seen.

[31] [ANTONELLI F.], “Sacra Rituum Congragatio Sectio Historica n° 77 Romana Beatificationis et Canonizationis Servi Dei Pii Papae X Disquisitio circa quasdam obiectiones modum agendi Servi Dei respicientes in Modernismi debellatione una cum Summario Additionali ex Officio compilato”, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950, page 303.

[32] DAL-GAL G., “The Saint Pope Pio X; official life of the canonisation apply”, “Il Messaggero di S. Antonio”, Padua, 1954, pages 185-186.

[33] ZAMBARBIERI A., Voice “Pio X”, in “Historical Dictionary of the Christian Movement in Italy”. Vol. II: “The protagonists”, Marietti, Torino, 1982, pages 486-495.

[34] DANIELE I., “St. Pio X, student of the seminary of Padua (13th November 1850-14th August 1858)”, Institute for the Ecclesiastical History of Padua, Padua, 1987, page 17-41; MAFFEO S. S. J., “Nine Popes, a mission, 100 years of the Vatican Specola”, Pontificia Academia Scientiarium, City of the Vatican, 1991, pages 52-56.

[35] These words adapt themselves to what it is written in his holograph will: “He was born in the poverty, he lived in the poverty and he was sure to die in the poverty” (ROMANATO G., “Pio X, the life of Pope Sarto”, Rusconi, Milan, 1992, pages 289-290). Even if he didn’t accept any human honours, he had to accept his family to be noble: ”The family, by virtue of the Bull “Urbem Romam” of 1746, has been registered in the Italian Nobles List, with the title of Roman noble” (SPRETI V., “Italian historic Encyclopaedia of the nobility”, vol. II, Forni Editore, Bologna, 1969 – Impression of the edition of Milan, 1928-35, page 447).

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Last update: 21.06.2009

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