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He Is Now Blessed . . . The Pope Who Did Not Want To Be Pope

September 18, 2022 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978, ending a pontificate of fifteen years. Albino Luciano (1912-1978) was summoned to Rome for the conclave to elect a new Pope. He was not considered “papabile”— that is, a likely candidate for Pope — though a few cardinals approached him expressing their opinion that he would make a good Pontiff.
Cardinal Luciani had made it clear that he did not want to be Pope and would decline the papacy if elected. Nonetheless, he was elected on the fourth ballot.
He accepted the honor out of respect to his fellow cardinals, but asked God to forgive them, for what they have done. He told Jaime Cardinal Sin of the Philippines that his reign would be a short one. Indeed it was, lasting but 33 days.
Baseless rumors swirled around his death that he may have been murdered.
At this point in September of 1978, it did not seem likely that Pope John Paul I would ever be beatified.
In retrospect, his desire not to be Pope and early passing may have been providential inasmuch as they paved the way for the long and highly successful reign of Pope John Paul II.
Albino Luciani was known for his humility, gentleness, and charity. In 1976, he sold a gold cross and pectoral chain that Pope John XXXIII had given to him to raise money for disabled children. He urged his fellow priests in Venice to help this cause by selling their own valuables. He thought the clergy should live simply and humbly.
In order for Pope John Paul I to be beatified, at least one miracle attributed to his intercession was needed. That miracle relates to the recovery of an eleven-year-old in Buenos Aires from inflammatory encephalopathy.
Sadly, according to Catholic News Agency, the young woman who was miraculously healed through the intercession of Pope John Paul I could not attend his beatification in Rome as planned.
The now 22-year-old Candela Giarda explained in a video recorded from Argentina that she had broken her foot and was unable to travel to Italy.
“Unfortunately we can’t go because my foot is broken, but surely at some point we will be able to go to the tomb of John Paul I,” Giarda said in the video, which was shared with CNA’s Spanish language news partner, ACI Prensa.
On September 4, 2022 — amid a thunderstorm — Pope John Paul I was beatified at St. Peter’s Square by Pope Francis.
Benedict XVI spoke well of the man who said of himself, “I am only a poor man, accustomed to small things and silence,” on September 28, 2008, the 30th anniversary of John Paul I’s passing, honoring him for his exemplary humility:
“As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us treasure his example, striving to cultivate his same humility which enabled him to talk to everyone, especially the small and ‘distant’.”
One of his last duties was to revise his book, Illustrissimi (1976), for its fourth publication. This book, which confirms Luciani as a writer, is a series of letters to illustrious historical figures. Among these figures we find Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, Penelope (the wife of Odysseus), and Pinocchio.
That last figure ruffled some clerical feathers. Did it reveal Luciani as a lightweight? They have elected Peter Sellers, complained one condescending clergyman.
Illustrissimi, nonetheless, is well worth reading, even for its relevance to contemporary moral issues. Toward the end of the book, his imagination turns to Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793), a lawyer who became the author of 120 plays. He praised Goldoni for his liberating attitude toward women.
While Luciani was writing these letters, feminists and parliamentarians were discussing whether abortion could be considered a “lesser evil” that would prevent illegal abortions and the deaths of numerous women. Can feminism and opposition to abortion be reconciled?
In his letter to Goldoni, he expressed his support of feminism as well as his support for unborn life.” My wish,” he wrote,” is that women may achieve new conquests, but just and lofty ones, developing everything the Lord has revealed about the greatness of women.”
Here, a “just” feminism, which would be just to the unborn, is sharply contrasted against a feminism that is not in line with an authentic feminism. Luciani’s view anticipates the pro-life feminism articulated by John Paul II.
Concerning the abortion issue, Luciani states, in that same letter to Goldoni, that “life must be protected at all times with the greatest care from the moment of conception; abortion, like infanticide, is an abominable crime.”
These words of Albino Luciani should be reiterated again and again, especially at a time when politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi, are identifying opposition to abortion as “an abominable crime”.
It is hoped that the recent beatification of Pope John Paul I will make his words more widely available to people throughout the world and with greater credibility.
His words may have been relatively few, but they should not be neglected.

  • + + (Dr. Donald DeMarco is a professor emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of 41 books. He is a former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Life. Some of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, and Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, are posted on amazon.com. He and his wife, Mary, have five children and thirteen grandchildren.)
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