Pope Pius X (June 1835 ¨C 20 August 1914), born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. 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 the Virgin 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.
In his papacy, Pius X worked to increase devotion in the lives of the clergy and laity, particularly in the Breviary, which he reformed considerably, and the Holy Mass.
Besides restoring to prominence Gregorian Chant, he placed a renewed liturgical emphasis on the Eucharist, saying, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.” To this end, he encouraged frequent reception of Holy Communion. This also extended to children who had reached the “age of discretion,” though he did not permit the ancient Eastern practice of infant communion. He also emphasized frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance so that Holy Communion would be received worthily. Pius X’s devotion to the Eucharist would eventually earn him the honorific of “Pope of the Blessed Sacrament,” by which he is still known among his devotees.