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Pope St. Pius V: Dominican Reformer

There have been twelve popes named Pius; the first (Pope Saint Pius I) in the second century; the latest (Pope Pius XII) reigning from 1939 to 1958. Popes named Pius have seen the Church through tumultuous times: Pope Pius VII, for example, whose cause for canonization was promoted by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, endured imprisonment and exile at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte and worked for the freedom of the Church in France after the Revolution and Reign of Terror. Pope (Venerable) Pius XII served during World War II, doing all he could to aid civilians affected by the war, especially leading efforts to save Jews in Italy and Rome, descrying the Nazi regime’s campaigns against non-Aryans, including the Polish Catholics.

One of the Reformation-era popes, Pope St. Pius V faced great challenges and opportunities during his six-year reign. He took on the reform programs of the Council of Trent, used diplomatic and other strategies to halt the spread of Protestantism, and worked to unite Christian Europe against attacks by the Ottoman Turks. Pius was prayerful, ascetic, charitable to the poor, and concerned for the well-being of the people of Rome. His reforms were not always popular with the Romans, but he was steadfast and consistent.

 

The Sixteenth Century Reformer

Pope St. Pius V, who was born Antonio Ghislieri on January 17, 1504, reigned as pope from January 7, 1566 (with the installation ceremony on his birthday) to May 1, 1572. He was a Dominican friar before being appointed bishop and then cardinal, and succeeded Pope Pius IV, who had convened the last session of the Council of Trent. Just as he had as a leader of the Dominicans and in his previous service as bishop in different Italian dioceses, Pius V proved himself dedicated to the implementation of reform throughout the Church. He was absolutely opposed to nepotism, the common papal practice of showing favor to family and friends, and just as dedicated to eliminating the vice of simony, selling church offices.

During Pius V’s pontificate, the Catechism of the Council of Trent was published and also revised editions of the Roman Missal and Breviary. The Missal of 1570, with slight revisions, remained the form of the Mass in the Roman Rite until the Novus Ordo reforms during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI in 1969-1970.

Pope St. Pius V implemented other reforms called for by the Council of Trent: bishops were required to be resident in their dioceses and make regular visits to parishes; religious friars and nuns were to remain in their cloister according to their orders’ rules; priests were to be celibate, chaste, and holy. Pius reflected these standards in his own life: he practiced great austerities and gave alms to the poor.

He improved the delivery of fresh water throughout Rome to even the poorest parts of the city. He forbad horse racing in St. Peter’s Square and condemned bullfighting and other similar sports as “cruel and base spectacles of the devil and not of man” in the Papal Bull “De Salute Gregis Dominici” (“On the welfare of the Lord’s flock”).

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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