Pius V, Pope, St.
PIUS V, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: Jan. 7, 1566, to May 1, 1572; b. Antonio Ghislieri, Bosco Marengo (Alessandria), Italy, Jan. 17, 1504. As a boy of a poor family he tended the flocks. At the age of 14 he entered the Dominican convent at Voghera, taking the name Michele in religion. He was professed a Dominican friar on May 18, 1521.
Early Career. After residence in Bologna for higher education, he was sent to Genoa, where he was ordained in 1528. For many years he was lecturer in philosophy and theology in the Dominican convent at Pavia as well as commissary of the Inquisition there. Twice prior of his convent, he was later elected definitor for Lombardy, second only to the provincial. In 1550 he was appointed to the difficult post of inquisitor at Como, which borders Switzerland, then a haven for heretics. His courage in opposing the bishop's vicar-general and the chapter, who challenged his methods, brought him to the attention of Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa (later paul iv), a member of the Inquisition at Rome. The elder champion of orthodoxy recognized a kindred spirit in the other's purity of faith and firmness of position. Later Ghislieri twice acted as inquisitor at Bergamo.
Appointed commissary general of the Roman Inquisition in 1551 by Julius III, he was confirmed in the same office when Paul IV ascended the papal throne. On Sept. 4, 1556, Michele was consecrated bishop of Sutri and Nepi, and appointed prefect of the palace of the Inquisition. On March 15, 1557, Paul IV created him cardinal and gave him the titular church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. On Dec. 14, 1558, Cardinal Alessandrino, as Ghislieri was then called (from his native city), was named grand inquisitor of the Roman Church for life. Even the new grand inquisitor could not always please the choleric old pontiff, and toward the end of Paul's reign suffered papal rebukes. The zealous cardinal was soon out of favor with pius iv (1559–65), who was ever the moderate and diplomat, whether dealing with nations or persons. Cardinal Alessandrino thought of retiring to his bishopric of Mondovi in the Piedmont, to which he had been named in 1560, but serious illness prevented him.
In the nineteen-day conclave (Dec. 19, 1565, to Jan. 7, 1566) that followed the death of Pius IV, Cardinal Alessandrino, despite his reluctance to be pope, was the choice of the majority. Cardinal Charles borromeo's support had turned the balance in his favor; Borromeo overlooked the differences between his late uncle, Pius IV, and the person whom he regarded as best fitted to direct the Church's destinies.
Papal Reign. Pius V began his pontificate with the announced intention of carrying out the decrees of the Council of Trent. Ascetic in appearance and attitude, he introduced monastic austerity into the papal household, e.g., the solitary frugal meals of the pontiff that became the custom until mid-twentieth century. Although adamant against nepotism, he was prevailed on by cardinals of the Curia to raise his Dominican grandnephew, Michele Bonelli, to the cardinalate. Fra Michele, taking his uncle's former title of Cardinal Alessandrino, became, in effect, the papal secretary of state. The pope, however, still retained Girolamo Rusticucci, his private secretary of former days. He created him cardinal with the title of Santa Susanna, and at times entrusted him with matters of great importance, especially during the illness or absence of Cardinal Alessandrino.
The Romans were apprehensive about the new pope because of his long association with the Roman Inquisition, and vigilant struggle against heresy, fearing he might prove another Paul IV. The building of a new palace for the Inquisition—the first had been destroyed at the death of the hated Paul—reinforced their fears. Pius V, to be sure, made ample use of the dread tribunal in his pledge to root out heresy, but not with the caprice and lack of logic of Paul IV. Pius V, determined to preserve the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith in Italy, strengthened the Index Librorum Prohibitorum to which he gave new prestige by creating a new administrative congregation fashioned after those of the Inquisition and of the Tridentine Council.
Papal Reforms. Pius V proved energetic in his reforms of the Church, Curia, and the diocese of Rome. He insisted on the residence of bishops, threatening long-term absentees with deprivation of their revenues and jurisdiction. He also made a systematic review of the religious orders, exposing and correcting corruption. A few orders, such as the humiliati, were abolished altogether. Seminaries were established; synods were held; and stated meetings of diocesan clergy, or larger groups, were emphasized. He was greatly assisted by Charles Borromeo in setting this example of conformity to the Tridentine decrees.
Pius V has an enduring monument in the liturgy and two published compendia thereof: the Roman Breviary (Breviarium Romanum, 1568), and the Roman Missal (Missale Romanum, 1570), whose title pages in all subsequent editions bear his name. These works supplanted, with very few permitted exceptions, the multiplicity of Breviaries and Missals, full of medieval accretions and often barbarous Latin, then in use. They advanced uniform recitation of the Divine Office and the Mass according to the restored (restitutum ) earlier and purer tradition, and thus were useful instruments in Pius V's policy of centralizing Church control in Rome. The definitive Latin catechism for parish priests, decreed at Trent, and in large part prepared in the pontificate of Pius IV, was published. It was most appropriate for a Dominican pope to sponsor an edition, published in 1570 in 17 volumes, of the complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas, the theologian par excellence of the council, whom Pius V had declared a Doctor of the Church, April 11, 1567. A new edition of the Vulgate was projected, and the work assigned to distinguished scholars. In short, scientific criteria were being applied to most of the sacred sciences, e.g., liturgy, hagiography, and Canon Law.
International Relations. Pius V's policies toward the great powers of Europe proved unfortunate. His excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I (Regnans in excelsis, Feb. 25, 1570) had an effect contrary to the one he envisioned, and his support of the measures of the crafty Catherine de Médici against the Huguenots in France, as well as his dealing with the opportunist Emperor Maximilian II, were criticized. His statecraft always reflected the friar and theologian. Despite his shortcomings as a statesman from the secular viewpoint, his great popular renown, ironically enough, lies in the field of international politics, although his approach was heavily colored by religious mystique.
A primary goal of his pontificate had been to propagate the idea of a Holy League of the Christian powers in a crusade against the Ottoman Turks, who had so long threatened the bulwarks of Europe. It was his hope that the league would dispel a very real danger to Europe and Christianity, and unite Christian nations in the face of a common peril. After many months of rivalry and disagreement, Spain, Venice, Genoa, the Knights of Malta and the States of the Church joined forces in a great naval expedition. They met the Turkish fleet in the innermost part of the Gulf of Corinth (Lepanto), and inflicted a humiliating defeat, Oct. 7, 1571 (see lepanto, battle of). On that day, the Rosary Confraternity of Rome was meeting in the church of the Minerva, headquarters of the Dominican Order, to recite the rosary for the special intention of victory for Christian arms. When news of the victory reached Rome, it was attributed to the intercession of the Virgin invoked by their prayers. In the wake of Lepanto, the pope's prestige grew immensely, though he declined any credit for the success. In commemoration of the victory he established for the first Sunday in October the feast of Our Lady of Victory, which was changed by Gregory XIII to the feast of the Most Holy Rosary.
The pope did not long survive Lepanto, a fitting climax to his relatively short, but significant, pontificate. His death at the age of 68 caused considerable lamentation. On Jan. 9, 1588, Sixtus V had his remains transported from St. Peter's to St. Mary Major's, where they were committed to a splendid tomb, surmounted by a seated statue of the pontiff by Leonardo da Sarzana. He was beatified by Clement X, May 10, 1672, and canonized by Clement XI, May 22, 1712. Behind the image of stern lawgiver, of a new Moses, which he projected, lay kindness, and zeal for the well-being of the Church. Besides guarding it against heresy and the might of Islam, he encouraged its expansion through the missions, and was a patron of learning, especially the ecclesiastical sciences. He was not indifferent to the fine arts, considering them as ancillary to religion. Thus he left only a modest impression on the architecture of Rome.
Feast: May 5.
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[h. h. davis]