Pope John Paul I: One Step Closer to Sainthood

The heroic virtue of John Paul I, the pope who reigned for just 33 days in 1978, has been officially recognized, paving the way for him to be declared “venerable.”

The Catholic Herald is reporting on an announcement by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints that they have voted unanimously in favor of the “heroic virtues” of Pope John Paul I. This means Pope Francis can now sign a decree declaring him “venerable.”

Miracles are already under investigation and, if certified, could lead to his beatification in the near future.

Albino Luciani was born into a desperately poor family on October 17, 1912, in Canale D’Agordo, a little village in northern Italy. He knew what it was like to suffer hunger as a child and to be forced to beg for food, especially during World War I.

“Our family had very, very little money,” his brother Edoardo told the John Paul I Association in an interview, “but . . . all of us always had smiles on our lips and we knew the most joyous and carefree childhood. My father, when he was working at home, used to whistle from morning till night.”

Albino’s earliest impression of the Church was equally positive. As he would write many years later, in his childhood he felt that “the Catholic Church not only is something great, but also something that makes the poor and the little ones great, honoring and uplifting them.”

These humble roots never left the heart of the man who would one day be known as the “smiling pope.” After becoming a priest, he was a gifted preacher who delighted people with fascinating sermons that contained simple stories that were full of wisdom.

A brilliant man, he was also known for his astounding memory which allowed him to recite long passages from the books he had read.

As he moved through the ranks of the Church, he found himself participating in all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome and brought these teachings back to his congregation.

As the John Paul I Association recounts, Albino had hoped that Pope Paul VI would decide that some form of artificial birth control might be allowed but when Humanae Vitae was issued in 1968, he wrote to the people of his diocese asking them to join him in a “sincere adherence to the papal teaching.”

Even after becoming Patriarch of Venice, he would be widely criticized for this position but he never wavered in his insistence on obedience to Church teaching. In spite of the criticism and the rampant dissension in the Church that was occurring at the time, he remained beloved by the people because of his humility and simplicity. He would often put away his pectoral cross and walk through the streets of Venice talking with people. When he traveled, he took the steamboat with the rest of the people rather than a private vehicle.

This simplicity of heart remained even after he received his cardinal’s hat from Pope Paul VI at the consistory in March 1973.

Through it all, Albino remained a man of prayer, the Association writes.

He said, “I speak alone with God and Our Lady, I prefer to feel like a child rather than an adult. The miter, the skullcap and the ring disappear; I send the adult on vacation and the bishop too, with the staid, serious and dignified behavior that go along with them, in order to abandon myself to the spontaneous tenderness that a child has for his father and mother.”

When Pope Paul VI died in August 1978, the cardinals looked for a man who would carry on the reforms of Vatican II and also teach authentic doctrine. Albino was their choice.

“He was elected by an overwhelming majority of the cardinals on the first day of the conclave,” the Association writes. “He amazed the world at his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s to give his blessing by his smile, which radiated the love of God. He took the first double papal name in history, and was the first Pope qualified to put a ‘First’ in front of his name in a thousand years.”

He would reign for just four weeks before dying suddenly of a heart attack in the middle of the night on September 28, 1978.

The heart of this great man of the Church can be summed up in the words he spoke in his first sermon to the people of Venice.

“God sometimes loves to write great things not on bronze or marble, but actually on dust, so that if the writing remains, not wiped out or dispersed by the wind, it will be clear that the merit belongs completely and solely to God. I am the dust.”

Pope John Paul I, pray for us!

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