The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. The item, a signed letter to the niece of Albino Luciani, was featured on the second episode of the series.
Here is Father’s Commentary:
Anything associated with John Paul I is going to be a unique and rare item, not only because of the brevity of his pontificate, but also because he was not one of the ‘papabila’–he was not considered electable. Nobody thought he’d be elected, and so items that are associated with him are not easy to find because people weren’t saving things of his.
Anything I have of his is of particular importance to me because I have a great devotion to John Paul I. I just love that man, and the fact is this is a rare item to have. It’s a letter written in 1959, when he was a young bishop, to his niece, Pia Luciani. She is the same niece that has given me several items belonging to the Pope. It is written entirely in his own hand on letterhead paper, and it is simply signed, ‘Albino’, and then, ‘bishop’ afterwards.
So this is, of course, a very unique and rare item to have.
It brings to mind the humanness of priests and bishops and even our Holy Fathers, who all have nieces and nephews. We are very connected to our own families.
I had the good fortune of being able to visit the family of John Paul I in the year 2000, and I was able to go through many of the family photos in a lot of their albums. And so I was looking at all these pictures with his niece, just sitting on their couch going through all these pages and looking at all these photos of our Pope when he was a young guy! And, Pia said, “And he did her wedding,” etc. It was just awesome to see exactly the priest, the pope, comes from a family of very humble origins like we all do. To be able to experience that, and then to have this letter that is just a simple letter encouraging her in her studies, shows the real connectedness and humanness of John Paul I, as any pope would have.
In 2000 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.
Pia also sent a letter on original letterhead paper from 1959, which says:
Dear Pia, It’s a pleasure for me to receive each of your letters, even more, when they give me good news, as the last. It pays always to do good and to study. And later it causes happiness and joy. I don’t see your parents and your little brothers and sisters often enough because I’m very busy. Love and blessings, Albino, Bishop