Pope Pius X (Ecclesiastical Latin: Pius PP. X) (2 June 1835 – 20 August 1914), born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914, succeeding Pope Leo XIII. He was the first pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. Pius X rejected modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. His most important reform was to publish the first Code of Canon Law, which collected the laws of the Church into one volume for the first time. He was a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a lifestyle reflecting Christian values. He was born in the town of Riese, which would later append "Pio X" (Pius X's name in Italian) to the town's name.
Pius was particularly devoted to Mary; his encyclical Ad Diem Illum expresses his desire through Mary to renew all things in Christ, which he had defined as his motto in his first encyclical. Pius believed that there is no surer or more direct road than by Mary to achieve this goal. Pius X was the only Pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the parish level, and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy; he favoured the use of the vernacular in catechesis. Frequent communion was a lasting innovation of his papacy. Pius X, like Pope Pius IX, was considered by some to be too outspoken or brusque. His direct style and condemnations did not gain him much support in the aristocratic societies of pre-World War I Europe.
His immediate predecessor had actively promoted a synthesis between the Catholic Church and secular culture; faith and science; and divine revelation and reason. Pius X defended the Catholic faith against popular 19th century views such as indifferentism and relativism which his predecessors had warned against as well. He followed the example of Leo XIII by promoting Thomas Aquinas and Thomism as the principal philosophical method to be taught in Catholic institutions. Pius opposed modernism, which claimed that Roman Catholic Dogma should be modernized and blended with nineteenth century philosophies. He viewed modernism as an import of secular errors affecting three areas of Roman Catholic belief: theology, philosophy, and dogma.
Personally, Pius combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence and poverty, but also stubbornness and a certain stiffness. He wanted to be pastoral and was the only pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday sermons every week. His charity was extraordinary, filling the Apostolic Palace with refugees from the 1908 Messina earthquake, long before the Italian government began to act on its own. He rejected any kind of favours for his family; his brother remained a postal clerk, his favourite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome. He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor. Considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius began soon after his death. Numerous petitions resulted in an early process of beatification.
Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born in Riese, Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, Austrian Empire (now Italy). He was the second born of ten children of Giovanni Battista Sarto (1792–1852) and Margarita Sanson (1813–1894). He was baptized 3 June 1835. Giuseppe's childhood was one of poverty, being the son of the village postman. Though poor, his parents valued education, and Giuseppe walked six kilometers to school each day.
Giuseppe had three brothers and six sisters: Giuseppe Sarto, 1834 (died after six days); Angelo Sarto, 1837–1916; Teresa Parolin-Sarto, 1839–1920; Rosa Sarto, 1841–1913; Antonia Dei Bei-Sarto, 1843–1917; Maria Sarto, 1846–1930; Lucia Boschin-Sarto, 1848–1924; Anna Sarto, 1850–1926; Pietro Sarto, 1852 (died after six months).
At a young age, Giuseppe studied Latin with his village priest, and went on to study at the gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto. "In 1850 he received the tonsure from the Bishop of Treviso, and was given a scholarship [from] the Diocese of Treviso" to attend the Seminary of Padua, "where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction".
On 18 September 1858, Sarto was ordained a priest, and became chaplain at Tombolo. While there, Father Sarto expanded his knowledge of theology, studying both Saint Thomas Aquinas and canon law, while carrying out most of the functions of the parish pastor, who was quite ill. In 1867, he was named Archpriest of Salzano. Here he restored the Church and expanded the hospital, the funds coming from his own begging, wealth and labour. He became popular with the people when he worked to assist the sick during the cholera plague that swept into northern Italy in the early 1870s. He was named a canon of the cathedral and Chancellor of the Diocese of Treviso, also holding offices such as spiritual director and rector of the Treviso seminary, and examiner of the clergy. As Chancellor he made it possible for public school students to receive religious instruction.
In 1878 Bishop Zanelli died, leaving the Bishopric of Treviso vacant. Following Zanelli's death, the canons of cathedral chapters (of which Monsignor Sarto was one) inherited the episcopal jurisdiction as corporate body, and were chiefly responsible for the election of a Vicar-Capitular who would take over the responsibilities of Treviso until a new bishop was named. In 1879, Sarto was elected to the position, which he served in from December of that year to June 1880.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in a secret consistory on 12 June 1893. He was named Cardinal-Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme. Three days after this, Cardinal Sarto was publicly named Patriarch of Venice. This caused difficulty, however, as the government of the reunified Italy claimed the right to nominate the patriarch based on its previous alleged exercise by the Emperor of Austria. The poor relations between the Roman Curia and the Italian civil government since the annexation of the Papal States in 1870 placed additional strain on the appointment. The number of vacant sees soon grew to 30. Sarto was finally permitted to assume the position of Patriarch in 1894.
As Cardinal-Patriarch, Sarto avoided political involvement, allocating his time for social works and strengthening parochial banks. However, in his first pastoral letter to the Venetians, Cardinal Sarto argued that in matters pertaining to the Pope, "There should be no questions, no subtleties, no opposing of personal rights to his rights, but only obedience."
On 20 July 1903, Leo XIII died, and at the end of that month the conclave convened to elect his successor. According to historians, the favorite was the late Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla. On the first ballot, Rampolla received 24 votes, Gotti had 17 votes, and Sarto five votes. On the second ballot, Rampolla had gained five votes, as did Sarto. The next day, it seemed that Rampolla would be elected. However, the veto (jus exclusivae) against Rampolla's nomination, by Polish Cardinal Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko from Krakow in the name of Emperor Franz Joseph (1848–1916) of Austria-Hungary, was proclaimed. Many in the conclave, including Rampolla, protested the veto, and it was even suggested that he be elected pope despite the veto.
However, the third vote had already begun, and thus the conclave had to continue with the voting, which resulted in no clear winner, though it did indicate that many of the conclave wished to turn their support to Sarto, who had 21 votes upon counting. The fourth vote showed Rampolla with 30 votes and Sarto with 24. It seemed clear that the cardinals were moving toward Sarto.
On the following morning, the fifth vote of the conclave was taken, and the count had Rampolla with 10 votes, Gotti with two votes, and Sarto with 50 votes. Thus, on 4 August 1903, Cardinal Sarto was elected to the pontificate. This marked the last time a veto would be exercised by a Catholic monarch in the proceedings of the conclave.
At first, it is reported, Sarto declined the nomination, feeling unworthy. Additionally, he had been deeply saddened by the Austro-Hungarian veto and vowed to rescind these powers and excommunicate anyone who communicated such a veto during a conclave. With the cardinals asking him to reconsider, it is further reported, he went into solitude, and took the position after deep prayer and the urging of his fellow cardinals.
In accepting the papacy, Sarto took as his papal name Pius X, out of respect for his recent predecessors of the same name, particularly Pope Pius IX (1846–78), who had fought against theological liberals and for papal supremacy. Pius X's traditional coronation took place on the following Sunday, 9 August 1903. Upon being elected pope he was also formally the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, prefect of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches and prefect of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation. There was however a Cardinal-Secretary to run these bodies on a day-to-day basis.