John Paul I: the faith of the “Smiling Pope” in Vatican II

Pope John Paul I is being considered for beatification.

Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected pope on August 26, 42 years ago. Experts are currently examining a presumed miracle that could open the way for the beatification of John Paul I.

One of the shortest pontificates in history could bring to the honour of the altars another pope of the 20th century. John Paul I lived only 34 days on the Chair of Peter, but his testimony — not only in that short period of time, but more so in the previous decades as bishop and pastor, esteemed even outside the Italian borders — remains very tangible in the Church even today.

It was 42 years ago that Albino Luciani, the Patriarch of Venice, was elected pope on the fourth ballot on August 26, 1978, and assumed the double name “John Paul”, in homage to his immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. Pope John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, thus including him among the Fathers of the Council; while Pope Paul VI transferred him to Venice and created him cardinal.

The month-long pontificate of John Paul I earned him the media title, “the Smiling Pope”. The world came to learn that the mild character his expression revealed was never an indication of a lack of spiritual clarity and pastoral energy. Proof of this was his attitude and the work he did at the Second Vatican Council.

During the working sessions of the Council, the future pope lived an intense experience of the Universal Church.

“In the Council hall,” he wrote to the faithful of his diocese in 1963, “it is enough for me to raise my eyes to the steps in front of me.”  “There they are, the beards of missionary bishops, the black faces of Africans, the protruding cheekbones of Asians.” “And it’s enough for me to exchange a few words with them, and visions and needs open up, of which we have no idea”. In other words, one feels the breath of “Christian optimism”, which promises to be the fruit of the Council, against the “widespread pessimism” of relativistic culture.

The cause of the sainthood of John Paul I has been underway since 2003. After three years of the diocesan phase, the documents arrived in Rome in 2006, and the “positio” (formal argument for sainthood) of Pope Luciani began to be examined by experts at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A meticulous investigation of the testimonies and documents led to the conclusion of the case in November 2017. A miracle that will clear him for beatification is currently being examined. It concerns a presumed extraordinary healing through the intercession of John Paul I that took place in 2011 in Argentina, in the Diocese of Buenos Aires.

By Vatican News