Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On Pope St. Pius X
"A Pontificate 'Characterized by a Notable Effort of Reform'"
H.H. Benedict XVI
August 18, 2010
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
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
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" (1931), 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 , 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 , 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 Churchís life and activity, his overarching
goal being to "renew all things in Christ" through our intimate personal
union with our Saviour. By Pope Saint Piusís prayers, may we grow daily
in love for Christ and help open others to his love. Godís 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]
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