|257th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church
4 August 1903 – 20 August 1914
Better known as Pope Saint Pius X.
Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born 2 June 1835 of very humble circumstances in Riese, Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, Austrian Empire (current-day province of Treviso, Italy). He was the second of ten children of Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita Sanson.
Giuseppe's father was the village postman. His family lived in poverty, but his parents valued education, and so Giuseppe was required to attend school, walking nearly 4 miles (6 km) each way. After completing his elementary education, he was tutored in Latin by the village priest, then continued with a formal four-year secondary education. In 1850, he received the tonsure, a shaving of the head which symbolized his religious devotion, from the Bishop of Treviso. He received a scholarship to attend seminary at Padua, "where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction."
Giuseppe was ordained in 1858. During the following years, he continued to prove his devotion through religious piety, personal acts of charity, and promotion of education to the masses, as he successively gained higher responsibilities within the Catholic Church, finally achieving the position of Cardinal in 1893. After the death of Pope Leo XIII about ten years later, the cardinals entered into conclave, and after several ballots elected Guiseppe Sarto as the next Pope. Guiseppe took the papal name of Pius X, in honor of his predecessors. His coronation was held on Sunday, 9 August 1903.
In his first papal letter to the bishops, written on 4 October 1903, he proclaimed the motto for his tenure to be "Instaurare omnia in Chris," or "to restore all things in Christ." This motto was exemplified throughout the papacy of Pius X. He was noted for his conservative theology and reforms. He was strongly opposed to the concepts of modernism and relativism, in which church dogma could evolve over time, rather than remain unchanging and inviolate. He condemned modernism in two famous documents written in 1907, "Lamentabili Sane," and "Pascendi Dominici Gregis."
He promoted the receiving of Holy Communion as frequently as possible, even daily, and declared that children be allowed to take First Communion as early as possible after the age of discretion, reducing that age to about seven years old. He encouraged the use of sacred music, including ordering the Gregorian Chant to be used everywhere. And of course, he emphasized the need to teach the catechism for both children and adults, and promoted religious education in public schools and universities.
Pope Pius X suffered a heart attack in 1913, which rendered him in poor health afterward. He fell ill on 15 August 1914, the date of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. He never recovered from the illness, which was worsened by his melancholy over events leading to the outbreak of World War I. He died of a heart attack on 20 August 1914, on the very day when German forces marched into Brussels. He had expressly prohibited embalmment, and was buried in a simple and unadorned tomb in the crypt below St. Peter's Basilica.
The process of canonization for Pius X began not long after his death. He was very popular among the masses and clergy alike, and large numbers of pilgrims visited his tombsite yearly. A monument was erected in his memory at St. Peter's Basilica in 1923. In 1943, he was given the title "Venerable" for his heroic virtues. In 1944, his coffin was exhumed and his body subjected to a canonical examination. He was shown to be "in an excellent state of conservation," even after 30 years and with no embalmment. Pope Pius XII bestowed the title of Venerable Servant of God upon Pius X, and he was returned to his tomb. He was beatified in 1951 after being credited with two miracles. He was canonized in 1954 after recognition of two more miracles, thereafter being known as Pope Saint Pius X.
For more details about his life and works, please see:
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