It has been a big month for the Holy Father as he furthers the steps for more holy people to canonization.
The Vatican last week announced that Albino Luciani – better know as POPE JOHN PAUL I – has moved forward on the path to sainthood, and can now officially be called “Venerable” by faithful around the world.
The first Pope to born in the 20th century, he is also the most recent Italian-born Pontiff and is often referred to as “the Smiling Pope” by those who knew him or remember his election.
He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church. He had hardly given four general audiences when he died. The late Pope suffered a brief, unknown cardiac episode the night before he died, which was likely linked to a previous heart problem he thought had been resolved, but was most likely the cause of his death.
Born Oct. 17, 1912, in
Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani made history when he was elected Pope Aug. 26, 1978, and took a double name after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.
Despite living in relative poverty, he entered the minor seminary in Feltre in 1923, when he was just 11 years old, and entered the Gregorian Seminary at Belluno five years later, in 1928. He was ordained a priest July 7, 1935, and after serving in a parish for a few months, in December of that year he was named instructor of religion at the Technical Institute for Miners in Agordo. He became vice-rector of the Belluno seminary just two years later, in 1937 – a position he would hold for the next 10 years.
Literature also played a key role in the future Pope's formation. He had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature. Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain. (no wonder he smiled a lot!) Later as cardinal, he even wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.
At the same time, he also became an instructor at the seminary and continued to pursue his own studies in theology. When his time as vice-rector was complete in 1947, he obtained a docorate degree in Sacred Theology from the
in . Rome
At just 36 years of age, he was named chancellor of the diocese of Belluno and given the title “Monsignor.” That year he was also nominated secretary for the diocesan synod of bishops. A year later, in 1948, he was named Pro Vicar General of the Belluno diocese and director of their office for catechesis and was named Vicar General of Belluno six years later, in 1954.
In 1958, he was named Bishop of the Vittorio Veneto diocese by St. John XXIII, and was consecrated by the Pope himself in St. Peter's Basilica.
Bishop Luciani was among the bishops present from around the world for the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and he attended each of the four sessions before the Council's close in 1965.
In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Pope Paul VI, one of the few patriarchates in the Latin Church. The Archbishop of Venice is typically made a cardinal, and Luciani received his red hat from Paul VI in 1973.
He participated in the 1971 Synod of Bishops on “The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World” in 1971, and in 1972 was elected Vice President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, a position he held until 1975.
The last year of his life was a whirlwind in which he participated in the Sept. 30-Oct. 29 1977, Synod of Bishops on “Catechesis in Our Time” and voted in the August 1978 conclave that elected him as Pope after the death of Paul VI.
John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand. Pope Paul VI considered him to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time.
So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Pope JohnPaul I, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Currently the Vatican is trying to decide which to present first.
Now the dilemma, if and when, he is canonized, what do we call him? Since we have a St. Pope John Paul?