Quite an interesting story is connected to this holy card and relic of Albino Luciani who became Pope John Paul I, reigning for only thirty-three days in 1978.
The portion of this black cassock is a significant second class relic belonging to Albino Luciani, the Cardinal Archbishop of Venice. It is a tiny piece of the one he was wearing as he left Venice to attend the conclave that elected him on August 26, 1978. After his death, the Vatican contacted the pope’s family asking for a portion of the cassock to be distributed as relics. This relic is from the portion given to the Vatican by the pope’s family.
However, Father Richard Kunst formed a great bond with the pope’s family and he also received a portion of this cassock from them, which is another artifact you may view in the Collection.
Father Kunst received that item from John Paul’s niece, Pia Luciani, with whom he has maintained contact since visiting her in 2001. She was happy to send him a large portion of this cassock, which had already been cut up for relics upon request from the Vatican.
Since he is soon to be beatified the cassock assumes even greater historical significance.
The Servant of God, Albino Luciani, John Paul I, had once of the shortest papacies on record –33 days — but, as his successor and namesake, John Paul II, once said, “The greatness of his pontificate is inversely proportional to its length.” He was the first pope to give up the tiara, the sedia gestatoria, the papal we, the first to call God “Mother,” and one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time. This modest tribute doesn’t begin to tell you half of it, but I hope to do more . . . Santo subito!
The Story of the Conclave Electing Albino Luciani
111 cardinals participated in the first conclave of 1978 on August 25 and 26. It was the largest assembly every convened for an election since the early days of the Church.
Records indicate that the heat of a Roman August made the gathering nearly impossible in the locked enclosure that existed prior to Saint John Paul II’s later creation of the Casa Santa Marta as a residence for cardinals gathered for this event–as well as the present residence of Pope Francis.
The gathering was so large that it was nearly impossible for the participants to have any privacy in their votes given the three feet of space allowed to each of them.
This conclave was different than all others in that the eyes of the world watched via the media presence that had never before been such a part of an election. Vatican II also gave millions a sense of having a voice in a way no other election had, and this put an additional stress on the participants.
Pope Paul VI restored the electoral majority to two-thirds plus one. In this conclave, that meant seventy-five votes were needed to steer the Church passed the internal and external struggles unleashed by Vatican II and other crises in the world. The cardinals met and caucused with each other prior to the conclave.
By Saturday morning, August 26, the second day of the conclave, the patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Albino Luciani, received 23 votes–just two votes behind Cardinal Siri. At that time, the cardinal of Cracow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla, received 4 votes.
It seemed obvious that the vote would be between the acknowledged conservative candidate, Siri, and the relatively unknown Luciani, a more progressive choice. After lunch, when a cardinal embraced Luciani, he remarked, in Latin, Tempestas magna est super me (“A great storm is overshadowing me”).
That afternoon, the third ballot of the conclave, Luciani received nearly seventy votes, and on August 26, in the morning, a landslide of votes were cast in favor of the patriarch of Venice, who was referred to as God’s candidate. He chose the name, John Paul I, the first pope with a double name and, unlike Pope Francis who is not called, Francis I, Pope John Paul I insisted upon it. In fact, there are several things written about him that indicate his premonition that another would follow him.
Another first from him was to choose an investiture to commence his papacy rather than a traditional papal coronation. He also used the singular form, “I”, when speaking as the pope, rather than the traditional, royal “we”. This language distinction was indicative of his intention to have a different style. His choice of a motto, Humilitas, also indicated the kind of man who had been elected.
Unlike his predecessors he did not hold diplomatic roles or Curial roles in the Church. As a result, there was some question that he was an intellectual ‘lightweight” despite his doctoral degree, his reputation both as a bishop and as a cardinal, and his publications.
However, immediately upon his election, he touched the hearts of the faithful with his personal impact. It has been said of him that the people and the media fell under his spell and were captivated by his warmth.
About John Paul, Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, He has been the greatest gift of God, a sun ray of God’s love shining in the darkness of the world.
It isn’t a surprise that John Paul, reigning for only thirty-three days, among the shortest reigns in papal history, is remembered in Italy as Il Sorriso di Dio: God’s Smile.
He died on September 28th, 1978.
Artifacts belonging to or associated with Pope John Paul I may be found on Papal Artifacts/John Paul I.
He is a particular favorite of Father Kunst who has visited the Pope’s relatives and home in Belluno, Italy.
Biographical information, his burial site in Saint Peter’s Basilica, his coat of arms and a YouTube of him speaking in English may also be found at Papal History/John Paul I.
Papal Artifacts honors the memory and gift to our Church of this beloved pope of the 20th century.
Information about his election was taken from John-Peter Pham’s, Heirs of the Fisherman, pages 124-129.
Of particular poignancy in the YouTube included here is the interaction of Pope John Paul I and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla greeting him and offering his obedience to the new Pope.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us, and beloved Pope John Paul I,
Venerable John Paul I, pray for us.