In 2001 Father Kunst and his father went to northern Italy, to an area called Belluno, where Pope John Paul I lived. They visited his family, in particular his niece, Pia Luciani, and his brother Eduardo, and his sister-in-law. They spent the day with them, visiting the home where the Pope was born. They were very hospitable and generous people who were happy to show Father Kunst the areas of Pope John Paul’s childhood.
Father Kunst formed a great bond with them but then lost contact. Very recently, in 2010, he reconnected with Pia Luciani. She fondly remembered their visit. Recognizing his affection for her uncle, she sent a gift, a notecard on her uncle’s original letterhead, as well as the envelope, from his time as a very young bishop in Vittorio Veneto, Italy.
The notecard is dated 1961 and is written on both sides. It says:
Dear Pia, Thank you for your news. I’m always very happy when I receive them, especially when they reveal to me your commitment and your effort to be studious and a good girl. The commitment is not very little because it needs to begin again every day. Your Father came recently, here at the castle but unfortunately, I was away this day. However, as far as I know, all are fine at home. Love from me and blessings.
This is an extremely rare item because John Paul I was not considered to be a strong papal candidate and was only pope for thirty-three days. People did not save items belonging to him. So finding things of his is actually quite rare, making this item very special.
From America, The Jesuit Review: The Story!
John Paul I, who was elected pope 43 years ago today, on Aug. 26, 1978, but died of a heart attack 33 days later, is likely to be beatified next year.
The process for the cause of the beatification of the man Italians called “the smiling pope” has now reached the final stage, according to the vice postulator for his cause, Stefania Falasca, an Italian journalist and his biographer. She announced this in an article in today’s edition of Avvenire, the daily paper of the Italian bishops’ conference.
John Paul I was born Albino Luciani in 1912 and ordained a priest in 1935. Pope John XXIII appointed him bishop of Vittorio Veneto, Italy, in 1958, and Pope Paul VI appointed him as Patriarch of Venice in 1969.
His death on Sept. 28, 1978, 33 days after his election, caused a major controversy due to the Vatican’s secretive handling of it. Speculation around the cause of John Paul’s death was fueled by the book written by David Yallop, In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I. Those rumors were debunked by Ms. Falasca in her full account of the pope’s death, Papa Luciani: Cronaca di una morte (Pope Luciani: Chronicle of a death), published in 2017.
The cause for John Paul I’s beatification was opened in his home diocese of Belluno, northern Italy, in November 2003 and is based on the testimony of 188 witnesses, including Benedict XVI. After the regular process of deliberations at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis issued a decree on Nov. 8, 2017, recognizing that John Paul I had lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity to a heroic decree and declared him venerable.
At the end of November of that same year, an investigation was launched in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires into the presumed unexplainable cure of an Argentinian girl who suffered from an acute form of encephalopathy, a severe brain disease. The documentation of the presumed cure was then sent to Rome for examination by the medical board of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. That examination took place on Oct. 31, 2019, and the doctors unanimously agreed that the cure could not be scientifically explained. The case was next referred to the congregation’s commission of theologians who also gave a positive verdict on May 6, 2021.
Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent.