John Paul I, short-lived “smiling pope”, beatified in Rome

published on Sunday, September 04, 2022 at 04:25

His 33-day reign was one of the shortest in the history of the papacy: John Paul I, short-lived pontiff who died in 1978, was beatified on Sunday in Rome by Pope Francis.

Thousands of people are expected in St. Peter’s Square for the beatification mass – a step before canonization and becoming a “saint” – of the “smiling pope”, who had already been declared “venerable” in 2017.

The last Italian pope, Albino Luciani, popular and close to the people, succeeded Paul VI in August 1978, at the age of 65. But he died 33 days and six hours later from a heart attack.

In the early hours of September 29, 1978, a nun discovered his lifeless body, sitting in bed with his glasses over his nose and a few typed sheets in his hands. However, no autopsy was conducted to confirm the cause of his death.

The announcement of his death was surrounded by many inconsistencies and false information and even fueled the theory of an assassination by poisoning, because the new sovereign pontiff wanted to put order in the affairs of the Church, and in particular in the financial embezzlement within the Vatican bank.

This “conspiracy hypothesis” was reinforced by “a calamitous communication” from the Vatican at the time, underlines to AFP Christophe Henning, journalist and author of the book “Little life of John Paul I”.

Like him, many specialists have questioned this hypothesis, believing that it is based more on a set of coincidences than on tangible elements.

In a book published in 2017 and prefaced by the N.2 of the Vatican, Mgr Pietro Parolin, the Italian journalist Stefania Falasca, who actively supported the file of beatification and canonization of John Paul I, had also twisted his neck rumors.

– “Friendly with everyone” –

Born in 1912 in northern Italy into a very modest working-class family, Albino Luciani, doctor of theology made patriarch of Venice, was created cardinal by Paul VI in 1973.

During his short pontificate, John Paul I, seen as a man of consensus, managed to imprint a simpler style in his way of being pope.

He defended the Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception, while initiating internal reform. Very sensitive to poverty, he also affirmed the importance of giving a “fair wage” to all.

Of “great simplicity”, endowed with a “strong pastoral fiber”, he “humanized the function (papal) and simplified everything that was protocol”, explains to AFP Christophe Henning.

Sister Margherita Marin, who assisted John Paul I in the papal apartments, remembers a man “friendly with everyone”.

“He treated his collaborators with great respect, apologizing for disturbing them. I never saw him show impatience towards anyone,” the nun recalled Friday during a conference of hurry.

The recognition of heroic virtues precedes a beatification, which requires a miracle. It then takes a second miracle, validated by the Vatican, to be “canonized” and obtain the status of “saint”.

The miracle attributed to Albino Luciani is the unexplained healing, in 2011 in Buenos Aires, of an 11-year-old girl who was dying but reportedly recovered thanks to the prayers of the local priest invoking John Paul I.

Among recent popes, the Italians John XXIII (1958-1963) and Paul VI (1963-1978) as well as the Pole John Paul II (1978-2005) have been canonized.

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