Blessing of “Smiling” John Paul I by Pope Francis

John Paul I, a warm-hearted and pastoral personality from the Dolomite mountains and the son of a bricklayer, was elected pope on August 26, 1978, at the age of 65.

He served as pontiff for the shortest period of time in the history of the modern church when he passed away on September 28, 1978, 33 days later from a heart attack.

Numerous thousand people, including Italian President Sergio Mattarella, arrived during a downpour to attend the beatification mass, which is the last stage before someone is declared a “saint.”

During Sunday’s mass, Pope Francis remarked, “With a grin, Pope John Paul managed to express the goodness of the Lord.”
How lovely is a church with a joyful, calm, and smiling countenance that never shuts doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbors resentment, never becomes agitated or impatient, doesn’t appear dejected, or experiences longing for the past.

On the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica, a wall hanging honoring the late pope was displayed.

John Paul I’s death aroused a great deal of speculation as to the cause, ranging from suicide (he didn’t appear eager to become pope) to murder, supposedly committed by individuals opposed to his ambitions to reform the church, particularly the influential Vatican bank.

Many have since discounted this and biographer Christophe Henning said the swirling rumours can be explained by the sudden nature of his death and the “calamitous communication” by the Vatican at the time.

No autopsy was conducted to determine the cause of death, and the Vatican issued inconsistent and false information about what happened.

For example, his lifeless body — sitting in bed, his reading glasses on his nose and typewritten documents in his hand — was found by a nun.

However, the Vatican did not want to acknowledge the presence of a woman in his bedroom, so said his secretary found him.

“For me it does not seem that there is really a doubt” about his death by natural causes, particularly given “we know that he was in fragile health”, Henning told AFP.

‘Friendly to everybody’

The Vatican announced in October 2021 that it had recognised a miracle attributed to John Paul I, allowing him to become beatified, a process when a person becomes “blessed” and the final step before becoming a saint.

The miracle was the sudden healing of a gravely ill 11-year-old girl in Buenos Aires in 2011, after a local priest prayed to the late pontiff.

Under the rules of the Catholic Church, in most cases a second miracle needs to be recognised before someone can be made a saint.

Born as Albino Luciani on October 17, 1912, in the northern Italian town of Canale d’Agordo, John Paul I rose to become Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal and then head of the Catholic Church.

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The last Italian pope, he was seen as a man of consensus, of humility and simplicity and a strong sense of pastoral duty.

“Open to dialogue and listening, he gave priority to pastoral visits and direct contact with the faithful,” the Vatican said in a beatification brochure.

He defended the church’s opposition to abortion and contraception while also seeking to reform its governance.

Sister Margherita Marin, who helped John Paul I in the papal apartments, recalled a man who was “friendly to everyone”.

“He knew how to treat his colleagues with a lot of respect,” she told a Vatican press conference on Friday.

Among the most recent popes, John XXIII (1958-1963), Paul VI (1963-1978) and John Paul II (1978-2005) were proclaimed saints.

The predecessor of Pope Francis, Benedict XVI, is still alive and living in the Vatican after resigning in 2013.

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