Pope Saint Pius V, Hero of the Inquisition

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In an age when clerical role-models are hard to find, here’s a look at one of the Church’s greatest leaders. He was a Pope, in fact, and his name should be familiar to any Catholic.

The man I’m talking about is Pope Saint Pius V.

This holy Pope not only led the Church through the tumult of the Council of Trent, but also participated in the salvation of Europe from Islamic invasion at the Battle of Lepanto. The Inquisition of which Pope Pius V was a distinguished alum gets a bad rap from English/Protestant centered history books, but that’s a topic for another time. For now: the heroism of this holy Pope.

From A Priest Life:

“Michele Ghislieri afterwards proclaimed Pope under the name of Pius V, was born on the 27th of January, in the year 1504, at the town of Bosco in the Milanese, but his family was a noble one of Bologna. At the age of fourteen years he entered the order of Friars Preachers. He was a man marked by a wonderful long-suffering, a deep lowliness, a great hardness of living, an unwavering earnestness in prayer, and a most strong zeal for the perfect observance of the Rule of his Order, and for the greater glory of God. He gave himself to the study of Philosophy and Theology, and was so learned in both, that he discharged for many years with great reputation the duties of a Professor of those sciences. He preached publicly in many places, to the great profit of his hearers. He long did the work of Inquisitor with unflinching spirit, and preserved many cities, not without risk to his own life, from the heresy which was then creeping in everywhere.

Paul IV, to whom his virtues had greatly endeared him, raised him in 1556, to the united Bishoprics of Nepi and Sutri, and after two years he was enrolled among the Cardinal Priests of the Roman Church. Pius IV. translated him to the Church of Mondovi in Piedmont, wherein, on his coming, he found that many corruptions had crept in. He reformed the whole of his diocese, and, after settling his affairs, returned to Rome, where his attention was called to matters of the gravest business, in determining which he used Apostolic boldness and firmness. After the death of Pius IV, the fifth Pius, to the astonishment of all men, was elected to succeed him, on the 7th of January, 1566.On becoming Pope he changed his way of life in no respect except as regarded his raiment. The Propagation of Religion was to him the object of unceasing care the restoration of the Discipline of the Church, of unwearied toil the uprooting of error, of sleepless watchfulness the relieving the needs of the poor, of unfailing charity the maintenance of the rights of the Apostolic See, of adamantine firmness.

The Turkish Sultan Selim was bloated with many victories, and had got together an huge fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto, but Pius V. crushed him, (on the 7th of October, 1571,) not so much by force of arms as by dint of the prayers wherein he pleaded with God. At the hour that the victory was won, Pius knew it by the inward revelation of God, and stated the fact to his servants.” (Read the entire piece here.)

Saint Pius V, hero of the Inquisition, ora pro nobis!