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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

St. Pius V

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Pope St. Pius V

January 17, 1504 – May 1, 1572

Feast Day, May 5


When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of All Saints Catholic Church in Wittenburg Germany, on Oct 31 1517, a poor boy from Northern Italy named Antonio Ghislieri was only 13 yrs. old. A year later he joined the Dominican Order as a brother. By 1535, when Saints Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher were ordered to be executed by Henry VIII Antiono was now a priest for 7 yrs. in the Domincans. That boy Antonio would become also a saint, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, Pope St Pius V.


The pontificate of Pope Pius V was one of the most glorious of the 16th century. He enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent and published the Roman Catechism. His imprimatur is on the Missale Romanum of 1570 that every priest uses to offer the Traditional Latin Mass to this day.


You can venerate his body which is buried in the Sistine Chapel, but not “that” Sistine Chapel. His body lies in a glass coffin in the stunning, baroque, Sistine Chapel of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. He is not far from other luminaries: the master artist Gianlorenzo Bernini is buried unassumingly in the floor nearby, and Saint Jerome’s remains can be found in a porphyry tomb under the main altar.


He was elected Pope in 1566. The Council of Trent had just concluded. The Counter-Reformation was so new it did not even have a name. The Muslim Turks were invading Europe from the East. Protestants occupied chunks of Northern Europe and were cracking the unity of the Church in France. In a truncated papacy of six years and four months, Saint Pius V rose to all of these challenges and more, leaving an enduring legacy disproportionate to his brief reign.

Our saint marshalled the coalition of Catholic princes and monarchs who defeated the Turks at the battle of Lepanto  in 1571 to preserve the Christian heritage of Europe for nearly 500 yrs. In 1570, Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I of England for heresy and schism, called her a pretender to the throne, and forbade Catholics to obey her. In response, the Queen to seek the blood of English Catholics for treason. Many Catholic martyrs come from this time in English Church history—people who suffered greatly for their fidelity to Christ and His Church.



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