Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Papal Parallels: Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. John Paul II

One of the most common statements leading up to the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II was that he achieved so much during his pontificate (and indeed as Cardinal Archbishop in Krakow, Poland) to implement the Second Vatican Council. On the EWTN World Over episode just before Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Robert Barron noted that the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, and other projects completed during St. John Paul's II reign, will have lasting impact.

Today's saint, Pope St. Pius V also completed several projects to implement the reforms of the Council of Trent, and they had lasting impact too. His reform of the Roman Missal in 1570, for example, codified the liturgy celebrated in Catholic churches in the Latin Rite until 1962, when Pope St. John XXIII revised it (and then Pope Paul VI issued the Novus Ordo revision). Pius V's edition of the Roman Breviary remained in use until Pope St. Pius X suppressed it and issued his own edition in 1911.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, commonly called The Roman Catechism, was issued during Pius V's reign. His reign in Rome also saw the reform of public morals, and he demonstrated great personal piety. According to this CNA story:

He was elected Pope on January 7, 1566, with the influential backing of his friend St. Charles Borromeo, and took the name Pius V.  He immediately put into action his vast program of reform by getting rid of many of the extravagant luxuries then prevalent in his court. He gave the money usually invested in these luxuries to the poor whom he personally cared for, washing their feet, consoling those near death, and tending to lepers and the very sick. He spent long hours before the Blessed Sacrament despite his heavy workload.

His pontificate was dedicated to applying the reforms of the Council of Trent, raising the standard of morality and reforming the clergy, and strongly supporting foreign missions.

Also like Pope St. John Paul II, he encouraged devotion to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, through recitation of the Rosary, creating a new feast to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto:

He worked hard to unite the Christian armies against the Turks, and perhaps the most famous success of his papacy was the miraculous victory of the Christian fleet in the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The island of Malta was attacked by the Turkish fleet, and nearly every man defending the fortress was killed in battle. The Pope sent out a fleet to meet the enemy, requesting that each man on board pray the Rosary and receive communion. Meanwhile, he called on all of Europe to recite the Rosary and ordered a 40 hour devotion in Rome during which time the battle took place. The Christian fleet, vastly outnumbered by the Turks, inflicted an impossible defeat on the Turkish navy, demolishing the entire fleet.

In memory of the triumph, he declared the day the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary because of her intercession in answering the mass recitation of the Rosary and obtaining the victory. He has also been called ‘the Pope of the Rosary’ for this reason.

The great contrast between these two holy popes was the length of their reigns: Pius V ruled for only six years, while John Paul II was pope almost 27 years! In a way, that makes the accomplishments of Pope St. Pius V all the more remarkable! For those interested in the English Reformation, of course, his great action, which I've covered before on this blog and in my book, Supremacy and Survival, was the excommunication of Elizabeth I of England in the Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis. As Pope St. John Paul II battled the Communists in his day, Pope St. Pius V fought against those he saw endangering Catholics in the 16th century: the Turks and the Protestant rulers! Notice that even though Europe was so divided, he called upon all to pray the Rosary for the success of the Christian fleet--the freedom of all Europe, Catholic or Protestant, depended on the victory of Lepanto.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us
Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.
Pope St. Pius X, pray for us.
Pope St. John XXIII, pray for us.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.


  1. I think you do St. Pius V. a dis service in contrasting him with Paul VI - mentioning the two in the same sentence denigrates the former. You touch on a topic of much debate and contrasting opinion : did Paul VI [himself? ] issue a new Rite? which of course is verboten, by Trent and Pius V's Quo Primum ....... the Catholic faith is as you so well know from Cranmer handed down [tradire] and passed on, hopefully intact ....... St. Pius V led a life of heroic Virtue - there is substantial evidence that Montini was a socialist. Judge the actions and trees by the fruit. That Pius V could call on millions to pray the rosary , even less, call upon Catholic Warriors to defend Christendom speaks volumes of the men and times. Regardless, your posts are superb and i as many look forward to gleaning your insights into history and Tudor period music ....

  2. There is no comparison/contrast there at all--Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Missal of Pope Paul VI in S.P. (just as he referenced the 1962 Missal of then Blessed John XXIII)--and that's just a data point to show how long the Missal of 1570 lasted. The entire post was a comparison of Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. John Paul II and how they both implemented an Ecumenical Council, defended Catholics, and fostered devotion to the Rosary.