12 July 2022, The Tablet

Pope sets date for beatification of John Paul I

Despite his short tenure in the Holy See, John Paul is credited with a significant impact.

Pope sets date for beatification of John Paul I

Pope John Paul I, who served 33 days as pontiff, at the Vatican in 1978.
CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

The Pope has set the date for the beatification of John Paul I on 4 September.

The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass in St Peter’s Square at which John Paul I, his predecessor-but-two, will become “Blessed”. The rite of beatification will be read by Bishop Renato Marangoni of Belluno-Feltre in northern Italy, John Paul’s home diocese.

He will be joined by Cardinal Beniamino Stella and Dr Stefania Falasca, the postulator and deputy postulator in John Paul’s Cause. Pope Francis recognised a miracle attributed to his intercession in October last year, involving the recovery of an Argentine girl from life-threatening brain seizures in 2011 after her family prayed to the late Pope.

Known as the “Smiling Pope” for his cheerful demeanour, which contrasted with the hitherto dour public face of the papacy, John Paul I reigned for just 33 days from 26 August 1978, before he died suddenly of a suspected heart attack. He was the last of the unbroken line of Italian popes since the sixteenth century.

Despite his short tenure in the Holy See, John Paul is credited with a significant impact. He was born Albino Luciani in 1912 in the town of Forno di Canale, in impoverished circumstances, and on his surprise election as Pope took “Humilitas” as his motto.

He was the first Pope to take a double name, choosing John Paul in commemoration of his predecessors SS John XXIII and Paul VI. He declined to be crowned with the papal tiara, instead wearing a bishop’s pallium, an example followed by his successors.

Unlike most popes, his background as a priest and bishop had largely been in pastoral work, featuring notable campaigns for the poor and disabled when he was Archbishop of Venice. He wrote on Church doctrine for less-educated audiences, and also had a creative bent, in 1976 publishing Illustrimi (“To the Illustrious Ones”), a collection of letters addressed to historical and literary figures including characters from Dickens.

St Teresa of Calcutta called John Paul I “the greatest gift of God, a sunbeam of God’s love shining in the darkness of the world”. His successor, Karol Wojtyla, took the name John Paul II in tribute to him, and declared him a Servant of God in 2003, the first step towards canonisation.

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