|Pope St. Pius X celebrates Mass in St. Peter's on 50th Anniversary of Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception|
(Dec. 8, 1904)
One hundred years after his death the figure of Saint Pius X stands erect, majestic and heavy-laden in the firmament of the Church. The sadness which clouds Pope Sarto’s expression in his last photographs, not only reveals a sense of the catastrophic consequences of the First World War, which had started three weeks before his death, but seems to foresee an even greater tragedy than the wars and revolutions of the 20th Century: the apostasy of nations and of churchmen themselves in the century which would follow.
The main enemy which St. Pius X had to face, had a name, which the Pontiff himself gave: Modernism. His relentless fight against Modernism characterized his Pontificate indelibly and was a fundamental element in his sanctity. “The lucidity and firmness with which Pius X conducted his victorious fight against the errors of modernism - affirmed Pius XII in his speech at the Canonization of Pope Sarto – testifies to what heroic degree the virtue of the faith burned in his saintly heart (…)”.
To the Modernism that was proposed, “a universal apostasy of the Faith and Church discipline”, St. Pius X opposed it with an authentic reform which had its major point in the custody and transmission of the Catholic truth. The encyclical Pascendi (1907), where he struck down the errors of Modernism, is the most important theological and philosophical document produced by the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Yet, St. Pius X did not limit himself to fighting the evil of the ideas, as if they were disincarnated from history. He wanted to strike at the historical bringers of these errors by imposing ecclesiastical censures, by watching over seminaries and Pontifical universities and imposing the anti-modernist oath on all priests.
This coherence between doctrine and pontifical praxis gave rise to violent attacks from “crypto-modernist” environments.
When Pius XII promoted his beatification (1951) and his canonization (1954), Pope Sarto was defined by opponents extraneous to the renewing ferments of his time, guilty of having repressed modernism with brutal and police-like methods. Pius XII entrusted Monsignor Ferdinando Antonelli, a future cardinal, with the compilation of a historical Disquisitio dedicated to dismantling the accusations against his predecessor, based on witnesses and documents. Today, however, these accusations appear once again even in the “celebration” that the “Osservatore Romano” dedicated to St. Pius X, by the writer Carlo Fantappiè, exactly on the anniversary of his death on August 20.*