Looking at Pope Francis via Pius V

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Pope Francis, on the first full day of his papacy, prayed at the tomb of Pope St. Pius V. I do not think that was coincidental. In fact, I believe that His Holiness intends to be remembered as most similar to Pius V. There are five ways in which I see this is already evident:

1. Connections to the New World.

Pius V was a big supporter of missions in the New World (aka the Americas).

Pope Francis is the first pope from the New World, bringing with him a culture that has, until now, never seemed to have a serious foothold in the Vatican. His Holiness’ cultural experiences could potentially be very important to the future of the Church, considering an estimated 40% of Catholics worldwide are Hispanic.

2. Papal garments.

Have you ever wondered where the classic white cassock that popes wear came from? Though the actual origins are unclear, Pius V is the one most commonly credited for starting the custom, because after his election, he chose to continue wearing his simple white Dominican habit.

Like Pius V, Pope Francis chose to wear only the cassock (and a zucchetto and a pectoral cross, of course!) when he greeted the world after his election.

3. Care for the poor and disabled.

Pius V began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor. He washed the feet of the poor and embraced lepers. He once even kissed the feet of a beggar covered with ulcers.

Pope Francis has blessed and kissed a disabled man, washed the feet of prisoners, and embraced a child with cerebral palsy. His Holiness has also called for the Church to be “for the poor.”

4. Church reforms.

On reforming the Church, Pius V did a lot. He cut the Vatican’s budget and tackled immorality (e.g. the use of prostitutes, etc.) among the clergy, along with other things.

In light of the mysterious Vatileaks report that a group of cardinals prepared for then-Pope Benedict XVI, in which it has been speculated that immorality and incompetence among some working in the Vatican is detailed, Pope Francis appears ready to reform the Roman Curia. He has even set up an eight-member commission to make recommendations on the subject.

5. Willingness to take on politicians.

Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I for her role in forming the Protestant Church of England, insisted on the importance of the Church’s teachings in civil affairs, and supported oppressed Catholics.

Pope Francis, as Cardinal Bergoglio, stood up to Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner on several issues, including gay “marriage” and abortion. He is not afraid to speak his mind.


Taking all of that into account, I am sure that the pontificate of Pope Francis will be regarded as a time of a reverent resurgence for the Church.

Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a student in the Diocese of Little Rock. He converted to Catholicism in 2012.

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