Pope John Paul I

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Servant of God, Pope
John Paul I
Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani).jpg
John Paul I in 1978
Papacy began 26 August 1978
Papacy ended 28 September 1978
Predecessor Paul VI
Successor John Paul II
Ordination 7 July 1935
by Giosuè Cattarossi
Consecration 27 December 1958
by John XXIII
Created Cardinal 5 March 1973
by Paul VI
Personal details
Birth name Albino Luciani
Born (1912-10-17)17 October 1912
Canale d'Agordo, Belluno, Veneto, Kingdom of Italy
Died 28 September 1978(1978-09-28) (aged 65)
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Previous post
Motto Humilitas (Humility)
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Attributes Papal vestments
Patronage Catechists[1]
Other popes named John Paul

Pope John Paul I (Latin: Ioannes Paulus I; Italian: Giovanni Paolo I), born Albino Luciani[a] (Italian pronunciation: [alˈbino luˈtʃani]; 17 October 1912 – 28 September 1978), served as pope from 26 August 1978 to his sudden death 33 days later. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent Year of Three Popes, the first to occur since 1605. John Paul I remains the most recent Italian-born pope, ending a succession of such popes that started with Clement VII in 1523. He was declared a Servant of God by his successor, Pope John Paul II, on 23 November 2003, the first step on the road to sainthood.

Before the papal conclave that elected him, he expressed his desire not to be elected, telling those close to him that he would decline the papacy if elected, but upon the cardinals electing him, he felt an obligation to say "yes".[2] He was the first pontiff to have a double name, choosing "John Paul" in honour of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. He explained that he was indebted to John XXIII for naming him a bishop and to Paul VI for creating him a cardinal. Furthermore, he was the first pope to add the regnal number "I", designating himself "the First".

His two immediate successors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, later recalled the warm qualities of the late pontiff in several addresses. In Italy, he is remembered with the appellatives of "Il Papa del Sorriso" (The Smiling Pope)[3] and "Il Sorriso di Dio" (The smile of God).[4] Time magazine and other publications referred to him as The September Pope.[5] He is also known in Italy as "Papa Luciani". In his town of birth, Canale d'Agordo, there is a museum that has been made and named in his honour that is dedicated to his life and his brief papacy.

Early life and education[edit]

Luciani as a young priest, 1936

Albino Luciani was born on 17 October 1912 in Forno di Canale (now Canale d'Agordo) in Belluno, a province of the Veneto region in Northern Italy. He was the son of Giovanni Luciani (c. 1872–1952), a bricklayer, and Bortola Tancon (c. 1879–1948). Albino was followed by two brothers, Federico (1915–1916) and Edoardo (1917–2008), and a sister, Antonia (1920–2009). He was baptised on the day he was born by the midwife because he was considered to be in danger of death, and the solemn rites of baptism were formalised in the parish church two days later.[6]

Luciani was a restless child and at the age of ten in 1922 he was awestruck when a Capuchin friar came to his village to preach the Lenten sermons. From that moment he decided that he wanted to become a priest and he went to his father to ask for his permission. His father agreed and said to him: "I hope that when you become a priest you will be on the side of the workers, for Christ Himself would have been on their side".[7]

Luciani entered the minor seminary of Feltre in 1923, where his teachers found him to be "too lively", and later went on to the major seminary of Belluno. During his stay at Belluno, he attempted to join the Jesuits, but was denied by the seminary's rector, Bishop Giosuè Cattarossi.[8]

Ordination and teaching career[edit]

Ordained a priest on 7 July 1935, Luciani then served as a curate in his native Forno de Canale before becoming a professor and the vice-rector of the Belluno seminary in 1937.[6] Among the different subjects, he taught dogmatic and moral theology, canon law and sacred art.

In 1941, Luciani started to work on a Doctorate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.[6] This required at least one year's attendance in Rome. However, the Belluno seminary's superiors wanted him to continue teaching during his doctoral studies. The situation was resolved by a special dispensation by Pope Pius XII on 27 March 1941. His thesis (The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini) largely attacked Rosmini's theology and earned him his doctorate magna cum laude in 1947.[6]

In 1947, he was named chancellor to Bishop Girolamo Bortignon, OFM Cap, of Belluno.[6] In 1954, he was named the vicar general for the Belluno diocese.[6] Luciani was nominated for the position of Bishop several times but he was passed down each time due to his poor health, stature and his resigned appearance. In 1949, he published a book titled Catechesis in crumbs. This book, his first, was about teaching the truths of the faith in a simple way, directly and comprehensible to all people.


Luciani in 1966.

On 15 December 1958, Luciani was appointed Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by Pope John XXIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 27 December from Pope John XXIII himself, with Bishops Bortignon and Gioacchino Muccin serving as the co-consecrators. In his first address to the people of his new diocese, Luciani stated: "I would like to be a bishop who is a teacher and a servant".[7]

As a bishop, he participated in all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). In 1958, he had taken Humilitas (Humility) as his episcopal motto.[6] He took possession of the diocese on 11 January 1959. On 18 April 1962, Luciani issued a pastoral letter, entitled "Notes on the Council", in order to alert the faithful to the structure of the proceedings and the overall purpose of the Council, chiefly, the doctrinal and practical issues.[9] In 1966, he visited Burundi in East Africa.[10]

On 15 December 1969, he was appointed as the new Patriarch of Venice by Pope Paul VI and he took possession of his new archdiocese on 3 February 1970. On 1 February 1970, he received honorary citizenship of the town of Vittorio Veneto, where he had previously served as its bishop.

1971 Synod of Bishops[edit]

At the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in 1971, to which he was personally invited by the pope, Luciani suggested to the bishops assembled that dioceses in countries that were heavily industrialized should spend around 1% of all their income to Third World nations to be given "not as alms, but something that is owed. Owed to compensate for the injustices that our consumer-oriented world is committing towards the 'world on the way to development' and to in some way make reparation for social sin, of which we must become aware".[7]


Pope Paul VI created Luciani the Cardinal-Priest of San Marco in the consistory on 5 March 1973.[6]

During his time as Patriarch of Venice, Luciani clashed with priests who supported the liberalisation of divorce in Italy, eventually suspending some of them.[2] At the same time, he was opposed to the 1974 referendum restricting divorce after it had been liberalised, feeling that such a move would fail and simply point out a divided Church with declining influence.[2]

In 1975, Luciani travelled to Germany in May. Later that year (6–21 November), he visited Brazil where he met with members of the clergy, including Cardinal Aloísio Lorscheider. Upon his return to Italy, he suffered an embolus in his right eye. A few months after that, Luciani also made a visit to Fatima. While there, he met with Sister Lucia dos Santos, the surviving visionary of three children who claimed to see apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary back in 1917, revered under the title of Our Lady of Fatima. When Cardinal Luciani met Sister Lucia, she referred to him as "Holy Father". This greeting shocked the humble cardinal.[11] In January 1976, he published Illustrissimi ("To the Illustrious Ones"), a collection of letters penned by him in previous years, whimsically addressed to historical and literary figures such as Dickens, G. K. Chesterton, Maria Theresa of Austria, Saint Teresa of Avila, Goethe, Figaro, Pinocchio, the Pickwick Club, King David and Jesus. These letters written in very clear and simple, yet often witty language as a way of relating elements of the Gospel to modern life.

In 1975, he suggested that there be disciplinary punishment for priests who spoke out in favor of the Communist Party or other leftist groups.[12]

In 1976, Luciani sold a gold cross that Pope John XXIII had given to him to raise money for spastic children. He also urged fellow priests in Venice to sell their valuables to contribute to this cause and as a way for them to live simply and humbly.[10]

As Patriarch of Venice, Luciani would establish family counseling clinics to assist the poor cope with marital, financial and sexual problems. He was seen as a champion of the poor and he even once ordered the sale of gold in churches to provide money to help handicapped children.[12] He was also against worker priests — those who went to work in the factories and fields to labor with the laity — and he also criticized unions over strikes and workers’ demonstrations.



Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978, ending a reign of fifteen years. Luciani had gone to the late pope's funeral and mingled with the crowds who wanted to view the body of the late pope. In a certain moment, he thought he wouldn't reach the body. But finally he was recognized once he had arrived and was then led to another place and was offered a bench to kneel and pray.[13]

Luciani was summoned to Rome for the conclave to elect the new pope. Luciani was not considered papabile at the time though mentioned upon occasion in several papers, but a few cardinals approached him with their opinion that he would make a fine pontiff. The electors did not want a Curial figure, as Paul VI had been, but a warm and pastoral figure like Pope John XXIII.

Luciani was elected on the fourth ballot of the August 1978 papal conclave. Luciani had previously said to his secretary, Father Diego Lorenzi and to Father Prospero Grech (later a cardinal himself), that he would decline the papacy if elected, and that he intended to vote for Aloísio Cardinal Lorscheider, whom he met in Brazil.[2] Jaime Cardinal Sin of the Philippines told him: "You will be the new pope."[10]

Pope Paul VI makes Luciani a cardinal in 1973.

However, when he was asked by Jean-Marie Cardinal Villot if he accepted his election, Luciani replied, "May God forgive you for what you have done" but accepted election. After his election, when Cardinal Sin paid him homage, the new pope said: "You were a prophet, but my reign will be a short one".[10] On the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, protodeacon Pericle Cardinal Felici announced that the cardinals had elected His Eminence, Albino Cardinal Luciani, Patriarch of Venice as Pope John Paul I.[14] The regnal name John Paul was the first time in papal history that a pope had chosen a double name. In a subsequent Angelus message the new pope explained that the double name was taken to gratefully honour his two immediate predecessors: John XXIII, who had named him a bishop, and Paul VI, who had named him Patriarch of Venice and Cardinal.[14] He was also the first pope to designate himself "the First" with the name.[15][16] (Pope Francis, elected in 2013, also took a previously-unused papal name but explicitly refused to be called "the First".)

In the aftermath of the election, the pope confided to his brother Edoardo that his first thought was to call himself "Pius XIII" in honour of Pope Pius XI, but he gave up on the idea, worried that the traditionalist members of the Church might exploit this choice of regnal name.[17]

Observers have suggested that his selection was a compromise to satisfy rumoured divisions among seemingly rival camps within the College of Cardinals:[14]

  • Conservatives and Curialists supporting the highly regarded Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, who favoured a more conservative interpretation or even reversal of controversial ideas being promoted as "in the spirit of Vatican II" but which had actually never been discussed at the recent ecumenical council. There remains a conspiracy theory (the so-called 'Siri Conspiracy') concerning allegations Siri was actually elected in the 1958 conclave, but was pressured to withdraw acceptance of his election.
  • Those who favoured a more liberal interpretation of Vatican II's reforms along with some Italian cardinals who supported Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who had created some opposition due to alleged "autocratic" tendencies.
  • The cardinals within the increasingly international College of Cardinals, beyond the Italians who were experiencing diminished influence, such as Karol Cardinal Wojtyła.[14]

During the days following the conclave, the cardinals were generally elated at the reaction to Pope John Paul I, some of them happily saying that they had elected "God's candidate".[14] Argentine Cardinal Eduardo Francisco Pironio stated, "We were witnesses of a moral miracle."[14] Mother Teresa, commenting about the new pope, "He has been the greatest gift of God, a sun beam of God's love shining in the darkness of the world."[14] British primate Basil Cardinal Hume declared: "Once it had happened, it seemed totally and entirely right ... We felt as if our hands were being guided as we wrote his name on the paper".[10]

A dramatic event, soon after the election, occurred when the leader of the delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad, collapsed and died after a ceremony on 5 September 1978. The new pope immediately came over and prayed for him.[18]

Church policies[edit]

Papal styles of
Pope John Paul I
John paul 1 coa.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Servant of God

Six point plan[edit]

After he became pope he had set six plans down which would dictate his pontificate:

  • To renew the church through the policies implemented by Vatican II.
  • To revise canon law.
  • To remind the church of its duty to preach the Gospel.
  • To promote church unity without watering down doctrine.
  • To promote dialogue.
  • To encourage world peace and social justice.[10]

Humanising the papacy[edit]

After his election, John Paul I quickly made several decisions that would "humanise" the office of pope, admitting publicly he had turned scarlet when Paul VI placed his stole on Luciani's shoulders while the pontiff visited Venice on 16 September 1972. He was the first modern pope to speak in the singular form, using 'I' instead of the royal we, though the official records of his speeches were often rewritten in more formal style by aides, who reinstated the royal we in press releases and in the L'Osservatore Romano. He initially refused to use the sedia gestatoria until others convinced him of its need in order to allow the faithful to see him. He was the last pope to use the sedia gestatoria;[19] subsequently, his successors refused to use it.

He was the first pope to choose a "papal inauguration" to commence his papacy rather than the traditional Papal Coronation Mass. Therefore, he would be given the pallium instead of the traditional tiara.

One of his remarks, reported in the press, was that God "is our Father; even more He is our Mother,"[20][21] referring to Isaiah 49:14–15, which compares God to a mother who will never forget her child Zion. The comment appeared in his 10 September Angelus address, which urged prayer for the upcoming Camp David Accords.[20]

Moral theology[edit]

John Paul I at the window for the Angelus.

The moral theology of John Paul I had been openly debated because of his opinions expressed on a number of issues, particularly birth control. It is debated whether John Paul I was liberal, conservative, or a moderate in matters of church doctrine, thus it is difficult to assess his views.


It is certain that John Paul I would not have reversed Paul VI's teaching, namely on contraception, since it was a question of sexual ethics and Church doctrine, rather than one of personal opinion. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that John Paul I would not have insisted upon the negative judgment in Humanae vitae as aggressively and publicly as John Paul II did. Luciani had mixed feelings in regards to the traditional stance on contraception. In 1968, as Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, he submitted a report to his predecessor as the Patriarch of Venice, Giovanni Urbani, that argued that the contraceptive pill should be permitted. It was agreed on by fellow Veneto bishops and was later submitted to Pope Paul VI.[22] When Humanae vitae was released, Luciani defended that document. But he seemed to contradict that defence in a letter he wrote to his diocese four days after the release of the encyclical.[23] In May 1978, Cardinal Luciani was invited to speak at a Milanese conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the encyclical. He refused both to speak at the event and to attend it.[24]

Some take a different view, describing that while serving as Patriarch of Venice, "Luciani was intransigent with his upholding of the teaching of the Church and severe with those, who through intellectual pride and disobedience paid no attention to the Church's prohibition of contraception," though while not condoning the sin, he was patient with those who sincerely tried and failed to live up to the Church's teaching."[3]


In his letter to Carlo Goldini from the book Illustrissimi, Luciani took a critical perspective of abortion and argued that it violated God's law and that it went against the deepest aspirations of women, profoundly disturbing them.[25]

Artificial insemination[edit]

In an interview before the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978 when asked for his reaction to the birth of the first test-tube baby Louise Brown, Luciani expressed concerns about the possibility that artificial insemination could lead to women being used as "baby factories" but he refused to condemn the parents.

It was his view that, "from every side the press is sending its congratulations to the English couple and best wishes to their baby girl. In imitation of God, who desires and loves human life, I too offer my best wishes to the baby girl. As for her parents, I do not have any right to condemn them; subjectively, if they have acted with the right intention and in good faith, they may even obtain great merit before God for what they have decided on and asked the doctors to carry out." Luciani added, "Getting down, however, to the act in itself, and good faith aside, the moral problem which is posed is: is extrauterine fertilization in vitro or in a test tube, licit?... I do not find any valid reasons to deviate from this norm, by declaring licit the separation of the transmission of life from the marriage act."[26]


In 1969 Luciani was cautious of de facto relationships as a lesser evil to divorce. He said that unions like those shouldn't be the same as marriage but he added that "there are, in undeniably pathological family situations, painful cases. To remedy that, some propose a divorce, which, conversely, would aggravate this. But some remedy outside of divorce, you can't really find? Once the legitimate family is protected and made a place of honor, you will not be able to recognize with all appropriate precautions some civil effect to de facto unions".[27]


In a 1974 interview while he was the Patriarch of Venice, Luciani upheld the traditional line: "A sexuality that is worthy of man must be a part of love for a person of a different sex with the added commitments of fidelity and indissolubility."[28]

Ordination of women[edit]

In a 1975 talk Luciani gave to a group of sisters he expressed his views on the ordination of women into the priesthood:

"You will ask: what about ... the priesthood itself? I can say to you: Christ bestowed the pastoral ministry on men alone, on his apostles. Did he mean this to be valid only for a short time, almost as though he made allowances for the prejudice about the inferiority of women prevalent in his time? Or did he intend it to be valid always? Let it be very clear: Christ never accepted the prejudice about the inferiority of women: they are always admirable figures in the Gospels, more so than the apostles themselves. The priesthood, however, is a service given by means of spiritual powers and not a form of superiority. Through the will of Christ, women -- in my judgment -- carry out a different, complementary, and precious service in the church, but they are not "possible priests" ... That does not do wrong to women".[29]


John Paul I reiterated the official views of the church in regards to Marxism and Catholicism being incompatible and believed it to be a "weapon to disobey" the Christian faith. As Patriarch of Venice, he struggled at times with Marxist students who were demanding changes in Venetian policies. He also forbade those factions that were Marxist threatening the faith.[30]

Interfaith dialogue[edit]


John Paul I was a friend to the Muslim people and as Patriarch of Venice said to Catholics that faithful Muslims had the "right to build a mosque" to practice their faith in the archdiocese. In November 1964 he explained the declaration of Dignitatis humanae: "There are 4,000 Muslims in Rome: they have the right to build a mosque. There is nothing to say: you have to let them do it".[27]

Universal call to holiness[edit]

Luciani stressed the need throughout his time as Bishop of Vittorio Veneto to answer the universal call to holiness as was an invitation in the Second Vatican Council. He believed that sainthood was something that all Catholics could achieve if they led a life of service to God. Luciani said that there were no barriers to sainthood and discussed this theme of the council in a homily on 6 January 1962: "We are called by God to be true saints". Luciani stressed the importance of this and said God invites Catholics and obligates them to sainthood. He also said that by professing love for God, Catholics say: "my God I want to be holy, I will strive to be holy".[31]

Opus Dei[edit]

Prior to his election Luciani wrote an article on 25 July 1978 for Il Gazettino di Venezia analyzing some of the aspects of Josemaría Escrivá's teachings of Opus Dei. He stated that he was more of a radical figure as opposed to other saints who taught about the universal call to holiness. While others emphasized monastic spirituality applied to lay people, for Escrivá "it is the material work itself which must be turned into prayer and sanctity", thus providing a lay spirituality.[32]

Interpretation of Vatican II[edit]

Luciani had attended all sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) while he was the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto. In terms of religious freedom, Luciani saw the council as a chance to break with tradition or continuity. He had hoped that the council would highlight "Christian optimism" in terms of Christ's teachings against the culture of relativism. He denounced a fundamental ignorance of the "basic elements of the faith" - it was this point that he wished to focus on as opposed to secularism throughout the world.

In terms of global interpretation of the council, Luciani wrote: "The physiognomy and structure of the Catholic Church have been determined once and for all by the Lord and cannot be touched. If anything, superstructures can. Things that have not been determined by Christ, but were introduced by popes or councils or the faithful, can be changed, or eliminated today or tomorrow. Yesterday they might have introduced a certain number of dioceses, a certain way to lead missions, to educate priests, they might have chosen to follow certain cultural trends. Well, this can be changed and one can say "the Church that comes out of the Council is still the same as it was yesterday, but renewed". No one can ever say "We have a new Church, different from what it was".

In regards to religious freedom, Luciani wrote about the council's declaration, "Dignitatis humanae". In his writings, he said that there is only one true religion that must be followed and no other. He said that those that are not satisfied with the Catholic faith are free to profess their own religion for various reasons. He continues to say that religious freedom must be freely exercised by the individual. "The choice of religious belief must be free. The freer and more earnest the choice, the more those that embrace the Faith will feel honoured. These are rights, natural rights. Rights always come hand in hand with duties. The non Catholics have the right to profess their religion and I have the duty to respect their right as a private citizen, as a priest, as a bishop and as a State".[33]

International travels[edit]

On 12 September 1978, Cardinal Mario Casariego y Acevedo of Guatemala invited the pope to visit Guatemala in 1979. The pope was said to have thanked him for the invitation but did not provide a response. The week before this, the pope said he was unable to accept an invitation to the Latin American Episcopal Conference in Puebla, Mexico for October due to his schedule.[34]

Sainthood causes[edit]

No saints were canonized nor people beatified in his brief term on the papal throne, but José Gras y Granollers, Juan Vicente Zengotitabenoga Lausen and Giuseppe Beschin were made Servants of God during his pontificate on 22 September 1978.[35][36][37]


John Paul I was regarded as a skilled communicator and writer. His book Illustrissimi, written while he was a cardinal, is a series of letters to a wide collection of historical and fictional persons. Among those still available are his letters to Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Empress Maria Theresa and Pinocchio. Others 'written to' included Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Christopher Marlowe.[38]

John Paul I impressed people with his personal warmth. There are reports that within the Vatican he was seen as an intellectual lightweight not up to the responsibilities of the papacy, although David Yallop (In God's Name) says that this is the result of a whispering campaign by people in the Vatican who were opposed to Luciani's policies. In the words of John Cornwell, "they treated him with condescension"; one senior cleric discussing Luciani said "they have elected Peter Sellers."[39] Critics contrasted his sermons mentioning Pinocchio to the learned intellectual discourses of Pius XII or Paul VI. Visitors spoke of his isolation and loneliness and the fact that he was the first pope in decades not to have previously held either a diplomatic role (like Pius XI and John XXIII) or Curial role (like Pius XII and Paul VI) in the Church.

His personal impact, however, was twofold: his image as a warm, gentle and kind man captivated the whole world. This image was immediately formed when he was presented to the crowd in St. Peter's Square following his election. The warmth of his presence made him a much-loved figure before he even spoke a word. The media in particular fell under his spell. He was a very skilled orator.

According to his aides, he was not the naive idealist his critics made him out to be. Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, the substitute Papal Secretary of State, said that John Paul I quickly accepted his new role and performed it with confidence.[40]

John Paul I had admitted that the prospect of the papacy had daunted him to the point that other cardinals had to encourage him to accept it. He refused to have the millennium-old traditional Papal Coronation and wear the Papal Tiara.[41] He instead chose to have a simplified Papal Inauguration Mass. John Paul I used as his motto Humilitas. In his notable Angelus of 27 August 1978 (delivered on the first full day of his papacy), he impressed the world with his natural friendliness.[42]


Tomb of John Paul I in the Vatican Grottoes.

On 29 September 1978, 33 days into his papacy, John Paul I was found dead "lying in his bed, with a book opened beside him, and the reading light on. According to a Vatican doctor, he probably died around 11 p.m. . . . of a heart attack."[43]

John Paul I's funeral was held in Saint Peter's Square on 4 October 1978, celebrated by Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri. In his eulogy of the late pope, he described him as a flashing comet who briefly lit up the church. He then was laid to rest in the Vatican grottoes.

It was said that around 10:00pm on the night of his death, the pope learned that several young neo-Fascists had fired upon a group of young people reading L’Unita, the Communist newspaper, outside one of the party’s offices in Rome. One boy was killed while another was seriously wounded. The pope lamented to John Magee, "Even the young are killing each other." He later retired to his room to read Thomas à KempisThe Imitation of Christ in bed.[44]

There are several Pope John Paul I conspiracy theories related to his death.


Pope John Paul I was the first pope to abandon coronation, and he was also the first pope to choose a double name (John Paul) for his papal name. His successor, Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyła, chose the same name. He was the first pope to have a Papal Inauguration and the last pope to use the Sedia Gestatoria.

Canonisation process[edit]

The process of canonisation for John Paul I formally began in 1990 with the petition by 226 Brazilian bishops, including four cardinals. The petition was addressed directly to Pope John Paul II.

On 26 August 2002, Bishop Vincenzo Savio announced the start of the preliminary phase to collect documents and testimonies necessary to start the process of canonisation. On 8 June 2003 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave its assent to the work. On 23 November on the Feast of Christ the King, the process formally opened in the Cathedral Basilica of Belluno with Cardinal José Saraiva Martins in charge.[45][46]

The diocesan inquiry for the cause subsequently concluded on 11 November 2006 in Belluno. In June 2009, the Vatican began the "Roman" phase of the beatification process for John Paul I, drawing upon the testimony of Giuseppe Denora di Altamura who claimed to have been cured of cancer by the intercession of the late pontiff. An official investigation into the alleged miracle commenced in June 2009.[47]

For Luciani to be beatified, the investigators have to certify at least one miracle attributed to his intercession. For canonisation there must be a second miracle, though the reigning pope may waive these requirements altogether, as is often done in the case of beatified popes.[48]

The diocesan inquiry on the case of the Giuseppe Denora healing was validated on 25 March 2010. The documents in regards to the miracle were supposed to be delivered to the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato on 17 October 2012 (the hundred year anniversary of the late pope's birth), to examine the pros and cons of the cause. This was delayed due to the cause's supporters wanting another check over all the documents. In a mass at Belluno on 20 July 2014, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone announced that the cause of beatification was set to advance. The cardinal highlighted that the Positio would be delivered in September 2014.[49][50]

The supposed miracle attributed to his intercession was taken to a medical board in Rome in April 2015 and the commission came to the conclusion that it was not a miracle that could be attributed to Luciani. This means that another miracle will need to be found before the cause can continue.[51]

To determine whether the late pontiff should or not be declared Venerable, theologians and the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints must determine if the late pope lived a life of heroic virtue. It would then fall to Pope Francis to recognize this in a decree, thus, putting him another step closer towards the end of the canonization process. After this, further investigation into an alleged miracle can go ahead. The current postulator is Bishop Enrico dal Covolo.

On 27 August 2015, Bishop Giuseppe Andrich announced that John Paul I would be beatified "soon". In a homily delivered during Mass in Canale d'Agordo, Luciani's home town, on the 37th anniversary of his election as Pope, Andrich said Church authorities had concluded the investigation into Luciani's heroic virtues. Following the conclusion of the "positio", they received several messages affirming personal experience of Luciani's holiness, including a handwritten card from Pope Emeritus Benedict. The testimony of a Pope or former Pope in considering a candidate for sainthood is extremely unusual. Benedict apparently recommended waiving the requirement for miracles in Luciani's case.[52][53]

Views of successors[edit]

John Paul II[edit]

The Pope Luciani Museum.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected John Paul I's successor as Pope on Monday, 16 October 1978. The next day he celebrated Mass together with the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. After the Mass, he delivered his first Urbi et Orbi (a traditional blessing) message, broadcast worldwide via radio. In it he pledged fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and paid tribute to his predecessor:[54]

What can we say of John Paul I? It seems to us that only yesterday he emerged from this assembly of ours to put on the papal robes—not a light weight. But what warmth of charity, nay, what 'an abundant outpouring of love'—which came forth from him in the few days of his ministry and which in his last Sunday address before the Angelus he desired should come upon the world. This is also confirmed by his wise instructions to the faithful who were present at his public audiences on faith, hope and love.

Benedict XVI[edit]

Benedict XVI spoke of the late pontiff on 28 September 2008 during his weekly Angelus address. Of the late pope, he said:

Because of this virtue of his, it only took 33 days for Pope Luciani to win people's hearts. In his addresses he always referred to events in practical life, from his family memories and from popular wisdom. His simplicity was a vehicle for a solid, rich teaching which, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and a vast knowledge, he embellished with numerous citations from ecclesiastical and secular writers. Thus, he was an incomparable catechist, following in the footsteps of St Pius X, who came from the same region and was his predecessor first on the throne of St Mark and then on that of St Peter. 'We must feel small before God,' he said during the same Audience. And he added, 'I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me.' These words reveal the full depth of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the church and to the world, let us treasure his example, striving to cultivate his same humility which enabled him to talk to everyone, especially the small and the 'distant.' For this, let us invoke Mary Most Holy, the humble handmaid of the Lord.


  • In 2006, the Italian Public Broadcasting Service, RAI, produced a television miniseries about the life of John Paul I, called Papa Luciani: Il sorriso di Dio (literally, "Pope Luciani: The smile of God"). It stars Italian comedian Neri Marcorè in the titular role.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Cornwell, John (1989). A Thief in the Night: the Death of Pope John Paul I. London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-82387-2
  • Gurwin, Larry (1983). The Calvi Affair: Death of a Banker. London: Pan Books, 1984, cop. 1983. xiii, 251 p. + [8] p. of b&w photos. ISBN 0-330-28540-8; alternative ISBN on back cover, 0-330-28338-3
  • Hebblewaite, Peter (1978). The Year of Three Popes. First United States ed. Cleveland, Ohio: W. Collins, 1979, cop. 1978. ix, 220 p. ISBN 0-529-05652-6
  • Manhattan, Avro (1985). Murder in the Vatican: American, Russian, and Papal Plots. First ed. Springfield, Mo.: Ozark Books. 274 p. Without ISBN
  • Bérubé, Pierre, «  Jean-Paul I » « Il y a 30 ans, Jean-Paul 1er… Un passage qu’on ne veut pas oublier! » Le Soleil, (Québec), 2 octobre 2008, p. 27, Opinion (présentation version papier), article complet : Cyberpresse


  1. ^ English: Albin Luciani
  1. ^ "The prayer for Pope Luciani". Corriere delle Alpi. 29 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Allen, John (2 November 2012). "Debunking four myths about John Paul I, the 'Smiling Pope'". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Raymond and Lauretta, The Smiling Pope, The Life & Teaching of John Paul I. Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2004.
  4. ^ Papa Luciani: Il sorriso di Dio (Pope Luciani: The Smile of God). Radiotelevisione Italia 2006 documentary.
  5. ^ The September Pope, cover story in Time, Monday, 9 Oct 1978, webpage found 3 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Highlights of the Life of His Holiness John Paul I, The Holy See, retrieved 29 December 2013 
  7. ^ a b c "The Life of Albino Luciani". The Pope John Paul I Association. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Yallop, David (1985) In God's name: an investigation into the murder of Pope John Paul I, p.16 quotation:

    So strongly did the writings of Couwase [Jean Pierre de Caussade] influence him that Luciani began to think very seriously of becoming a Jesuit. He watched as first one, then a second, of his close friends went to the rector, Bishop Giouse Cattarossi, and asked for permission to join the Jesuit order. In both instances the permission was granted to them. Luciani would soon make his decision, and so he went and asked for permission. The bishop considered the request, then responded, "No, three is one too many. You had better stay here."

  9. ^ "Biography of John Paul I". Johannes Paulus I. 2005. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Modern Heroes of the Church - Leo Knowles". Google Books. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "The first years of Albino Luciani: 4° part (the conclave)". YouTube. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "The New Pope: John Paul I". Lakeland Ledger. 27 August 1978. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "The Cause for Pope John Paul I". Canonization Pope John Paul I. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Molinari, Gloria C. "The Conclave August 25th-26th, 1978". John Paul I The Smiling Pope. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Yallop, p. 75.
  16. ^ Feltes, Fr. Victor (26 August 1978). "Habemus Papam! — Day 1". Blogging the John Paul I Papacy. 
  17. ^ La speranza è aspettare qualcosa di bello dal Signore (di Stefania Falasca), 30 Giorni, retrieved 9 February 2014 
  18. ^ "Russian Archbishop Dies During Papal Audience". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. 6 September 1978. p. 6. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  19. ^ The last days of Johannes Paulus I (Albino Luciani 1978) (Television production) (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Angelus Address". Vatican official website. 10 September 1978. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  21. ^ "Sarasota Herald-Tribune". Google. 30 September 1978. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  22. ^ John Julius Norwich, The Popes, London, 2011 p445
  23. ^ Albino Luciani/Giovanni Paolo I, Opera Omnia (Padua: Edizioni Messagero, 1989), vol. 3, pp. 300-301.
  24. ^ John Julius Norwich, The Popes, London, 2011, p. 445
  25. ^ Illustrissimi: The Letters of Pope John Paul I. Translated by Isabel Quigly. Gracewing Publishing. 2001. p. 269. ISBN 9780852445495. 
  26. ^ Prospettive nel Mondo, August 1, 1978; Luciani, Opera Omnia, vol. 8, pp. 571-72.
  27. ^ a b "Luciani, the meek Pope (in Italian)". Vatican Insider. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Interview with Il Gazzettino, February 12, 1974, p. 7
  29. ^ John L. Allen (2 November 2012). "Debunking four myths about John Paul I, the 'Smiling Pope'". Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  30. ^ "Albino Luciani unpublished Part II (in Italian)". Zenit. 21 August 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  31. ^ "The Lord invites and obligates us to holiness (in Italian)". Humilitas. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  32. ^ Cardinal Albino Luciani (John Paul I). "Seeking God Through Everyday Work: A profile of the Founder of Opus Dei, Josemaria Escriva". Opus Dei Files. Retrieved 3 April 2007. 
  33. ^ "The Second Vatican Council according to Albino Luciani". Vatican Insider. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  34. ^ "Pope Invited to the New World, but Staying Put for Now". The Ottawa Journal. 12 September 1978. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "JUAN VICENTE ZENGOTITABENGOA LAUSEN (JUAN VICENTE OF JESUS AND MARY)". Hagiography Circle. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  36. ^ "JOSÉ GRAS GRANOLLERS". 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  37. ^ "GIUSEPPE BESCHIN (IGNAZIO)". Hagiography Circle. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  38. ^ Molinari, Gloria C. (10 September 1999). "Letters". Papaluciani.com. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  39. ^ McCabe, Joseph, A History of the Popes excerpts from: A History of the Popes
  40. ^ "We must not be deceived by his smile. He listened, he asked for information, he studied. But once he made a decision, he did not go back on it, unless new facts came to light.... With absolute respect to persons, the Pope had no intentions of deviating from what had been the rule of his life and the direction of his pastoral action: fatherly, yes, but absolutely firm in the guidance of the souls entrusted by God to his care." Quoted in Raymond Seabeck, The Smiling Pope, The Life and Teaching of John Paul I Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2004, p. 65.
  41. ^ Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1975) Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution on the election on the pontiff, Section 92.
  42. ^ "First Angelus Address, Pope John Paul I". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  43. ^ From the archive, 30 September 1978: Pope John Paul I dies of heart attack, The Guardian
  44. ^ "From the archive, 30 September 1978: Pope John Paul I dies of heart attack". The Guardian. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  45. ^ Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Solemn Opening of the Cause for Canonization of the Servant of God, Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I on 23 November 2003. In Italian. Page found 13 June 2010.
  46. ^ John Paul I on Sainthood Track. United Press International, 12 November 2006. Page found 13 June 2010.
  47. ^ John Paul I's Miracle Goes to Rome. National Catholic Register, 8 June 2009.
  48. ^ "What is a Saint?". Catholic-Pages.com. 29 July 1997. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  49. ^ "John Paul I's beatification cause may advance, cardinal says". Catholic News Agency. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  50. ^ "Card. Bertone: "Luciani Blessed soon" (in Italian)". TeleBelluno. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  51. ^ ""Papa Albino Luciani non sarà beato" (in Italian)". 26 April 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  52. ^ Rome: Pope Luciani soon beatified, also Ratzinger has testified in his favor, but he lacks miracles. Messagiero, August 27, 2015.
  53. ^ Benedict XVI to witness the beatification of Albino Luciani. Telebelluno, August 27, 2015.
  54. ^ "First Radiomessage "Urbi et orbi", Pope John Paul II". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giuseppe Carraro
Bishop of Vittorio-Veneto
27 December 1958 – 15 December 1969
Succeeded by
Antonio Cunial
Preceded by
Giovanni Urbani
Patriarch of Venice
15 December 1969 – 16 August 1978
Succeeded by
Marco Cé
Cardinal-Priest of San Marco
5 March 1973 – 26 August 1978
Preceded by
Paul VI
26 August – 28 September 1978
Succeeded by
John Paul II