It is no secret to those of you who follow the Papal Artifacts’ website & Collection that the curator of the site, Father Richard Kunst, is a great fan of Pope John Paul I–enough so that he had the pleasure of visiting Papa Luciani’s home and family in Belluno, Italy, where he received many letters, autographs, and articles of clothing from them. Long believing this pontiff would eventually be beatified, he has treasured these items, knowing, like the Italians, that il soriso di Deo,–the sun ray of God’s love, the wait wouldn’t be forever.
Pope John Paul I, pray for us!
From Rome today, via America Magazine came the following news:
“The smiling pope,” John Paul I, who served as leader of the Catholic Church for only 33 days in 1978, is on the path to sainthood. Next Tuesday, Nov. 7, the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will meet in the Vatican, and sources say they are expected to recognize that he lived the Christian virtues to “a heroic degree.” Pope Francis is expected to approve this and declare him “Venerable Servant of God.”
Two miracles attributed to the intercession of the man Italians called “the smiling pope” are under examination. If one of them is recognized as a miracle, then he could soon be beatified.
The news was broken today in La Stampa and Vatican Insider by Andrea Tornielli, an Italian Vatican correspondent, in his presentation of a new book on the death of John Paul I, Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death. The book is written by Stefania Falasca, the vice-postulator of the cause of John Paul I, who died on the night of Sept. 28, 1978. His was one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the church. —Gerard O’Connell
And further in his column:
Many people in Italy already consider “the smiling pope” a saint. Soon after his death, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who voted in the conclave that elected him pope, said, “I am convinced that he is a saint.”
It appears clear now that he is on the path to sainthood, and if the Congregations for the Causes of the Saints recognize one of the two unexplained cures being attributed to his intercession, then the door will be open for Pope Francis to confirm this and beatify him.
And from Pope Francis, quoting John Paul I four separate times in the book-long interview with Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God Is Mercy, it is obvious our Holy Father is familiar with Papa Luciani’s writings on mercy. And his esteem for him is obvious as well. Three of these quotes are featured here:
I once read a homily by then cardinal Albino Luciani about Father Leopold Mandić, who had just been beatified by Pope Paul VI. He described something that was very similar to what I just told you. He said: “You know, we are all sinners,” Luciani said on that occasion. “Father Leopold knew that very well. We must take this sad reality of ours into account: no one can avoid sin, small or great, for very long. ‘But,’ as Saint Francis de Sales said, ‘if you have a little donkey and along the road it falls onto the cobblestones, what should you do? You certainly don’t go there with a stick to beat it, poor little thing, it’s already unfortunate enough. You must take it by the halter and say: ‘Up, let’s take to the road again…. Now we will get back on the road, and we will pay more attention next time.’ This is the system, and Father Leopold applied this system in full. A priest, a friend of mine, who went to confess to him, said: ‘Father, you are too generous. I am glad to have gone to confession to you, but it seems to me that you are too generous.’ And Father Leopold said: ‘But who has been generous, my son? It was the Lord who was generous; I wasn’t the one who died for our sins, it was the Lord who died for our sins. How could he have been more generous with the thief, with others, than this!’”
And then there is the homily with which Albino Luciani began his bishopric at Vittorio Veneto, when he said he had been chosen because the Lord preferred that certain things not be engraved in bronze or marble but in the dust, so that if the writing had remained it would have been clear that the merit was all and only God’s. He, now bishop and future Pope John Paul I, called himself “dust.” I have to say that when I speak of this, I always think of what Simon Peter told Jesus on the Sunday of his resurrection, when he met him on his own, a meeting hinted at in the Gospel of Luke (24: 34). What might Peter have said to the Messiah upon his resurrection from the tomb? Might he have said that he felt like a sinner? He must have thought of his betrayal, of what had happened a few days earlier when he pretended for three times not to recognize Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. He must have thought of his bitter and public tears. If Peter did all of that, if the Gospels describe his sin and denials to us, and if despite all this, Jesus said, “Tend my sheep” (John 21: 16), I don’t think we should be surprised if his successors describe themselves as sinners. It is nothing new. The Pope is a man who needs the mercy of God.
I think back to the words of God’s servant John Paul I, who during a Wednesday audience said, “The Lord loves humility so much that sometimes he permits serious sins. Why? In order that those who committed these sins may, after repenting, remain humble. One does not feel inclined to think oneself half a saint, half an angel, when one knows that one has committed serious faults.”
Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy Random House Publishing Group, 2016 (Kindle Editions locations, 237-43, 412-424, 622-29).