I am delighted to hear the news about Pope John Paul I! I was in his presence only a few times, the first being at the Mass that started his pontificate, and I remember thinking what a warm, smiley human being he was! Looking at closeups of the Mass, both photos and film, I even noticed what to me was a twinkle in his eyes! Most observers commented on his captivating, contagious smile and he was immediately called ‘the smiling Pope.’  I remember thinking, “he probably smiles in his sleep!”

I was in Rome when he was elected but in Cairo, Egypt when he died. When we heard the news in Cairo over BBC radio, we thought for sure the reporters were behind the times and that they were referring to Paul VI who had died on August 6. But no, they were referring to the new Pope, John Paul I who died after only 33 days of pontificate!

I was still in Cairo when John Paul II was elected – another story for another time.

One of my favorite stories from all those decades ago was the report that one day Pope John Paul was asked to sign a document and he wrote his name in Latin and placed the Roman numeral I beside it. A secretary or some official said, “But Holiness, there is no I after your name.” And John Paul is said to have replied, “There will be a John Paul II.”

John Paul only became John Paul I when there was indeed a John Paul II. The same for Pope Francis. He does not use a Roman numeral (even though he is the first to use the name Francis) but if there is another Francis, that Pope would be Francis II and the current one Francis I.  Hopefully that is clear!

As Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani wrote a book entitled “Illustrissimi,” a wonderful series of letters he penned to people, known and lesser known, real and fictitious, including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, G.K.Chesterton, Maria Theresa of Austria, Charles Peguy, Trilussa, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, King David, Penelope, Figaro, The Pickwick Club and Pinocchio. They were warm and witty and Cardinal Luciani always made a point in each letter – about life, religion, business, fashion, etc.  For some great reading, try to find a copy!

Released just two days ago, a new book outlines details about the death of Pope John Paul I, new information that confirms that his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously held, thus debunking theories that the pontiff was killed in his sleep.Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death is by Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca.


(Vatican Radio) Pope John Paul I has moved a step closer to sainthood with the recognition of his heroic virtues.  Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree approving his predecessor’s heroic virtues which confers on him the title ‘Venerable’. 

Pope Francis also authorized 7 other decrees along with that of John Paul I – two of them on martyrdom and 5 on heroic virtues.

Pope John Paul I whose heroic virtues Pope Francis has approved and declared him ‘Venerable Servant of God’ had a brief papacy of just 33 days, yet has left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church.

The ‘Smiling Pope’, as he is called in that short duration of his pontificate, gave nine speeches, three messages, wrote three Apostolic letters and four other official letters, gave two homilies and had five Sunday ‘Angelus’ prayers and four Wednesday general audiences. This short encounter, as well as his vast experience as a priest, bishop, Patriarch of Venice and then Cardinal, proved him to be a person of faith, humble and meek person yet tough when it comes to Church teachings.   Love of God and love of neighbor was his special hallmark.

Born on October 17, 1912 at Forno di Canale (Belluno, Italy), Albino Luciani was the son of Giovanni Luciani and Bortola Tancon. He  was baptized the same day at home by the midwife as he was in danger of death but formalized two days later in the Church by the curate. On February 2, 1935 he was ordained deacon and on July 7, 1935 ordained to the priesthood at St. Peter’s Church of Belluno diocese of Belluno e Feltre.

In February 1947 he graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome with a doctorate in Sacred Theology. His thesis was, “The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini”. On December 27, 1958 he was Consecrated Bishop by John XXIII at St. Peter’s Basilica together with the newly consecrated bishops, Gioacchino Muccin and Girolamo Bortignon.

In 1977 he participated in the IV Ordinary General Assembly in Rome of the Synod of Bishops regarding “Catechetics in Our Time”. August 10, 1978 brought him again to the Vatican after the death of Pope Paul the VI.

On August 26, during the second day of the conclave, he was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and he chose his name John Paul I, wishing to serve the Church as his predecessors did. During his first Sunday Angelus, he humbly acknowledged that he chose that name knowing that he neither had the wisdom of the heart of Pope John nor the preparation and culture of Pope Paul. With this name he became the first Pope to take up a dual name in papal history.

Luciani vowed to serve as a teacher and a servant and had taken up Humilitas (Humility) as his episcopal motto which was evident even after he was appointed a pope.  He wished to do away with the papal coronation mass and chose to have just a papal inauguration. He also preferred not to use the ‘sedia gestatoria’ or the ceremonial throne like an armchair on which the Pope travels from St Peter’s Square.

Luciani, a warm, gentle and kind man with a friendly disposition, was loved by the people who were in awe of his persona. He had impressed people with his excellent oratory skills.  His ideologies reflected the spirit of humanity and showcased the immense love and warmth that he had for God and his people.

His swift six-point plan defined what the journey of his pontificate would be. He planned to renew the Church through the policies implemented by Vatican II, to revise canon law, to remind the Church of its duty to preach the Gospel, to promote Church unity without watering down doctrine, to promote dialogue and to encourage world peace and social justice.

His successors looked upon him as a gentle soul with a heart filled with love. If his immediate successor Cardinal Karol Wojtyła spoke of his values of faith, hope and love, Benedict XVI commented that it was due to his virtues that despite holding papacy for just 33 days, he was able to win the people’s hearts. For Pope Francis, John Paul I was an icon of mercy and humility and he has quoted him in his homilies and in an interview. His qualities of heart and mind made him affable.

Already two miracles are attributed to his intercession and are under examination. If any of them is recognized, he would be cleared for beatification.


From Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:

The Holy Father has decided that the Vatican will cease to sell cigarettes to employees as of 2018. The reason is very simple: the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people. According to the World Health Organization, every year smoking is the cause of more than seven million deaths throughout the world.

Although the cigarettes sold to employees and pensioners in the Vatican at a reduced price are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk.


Pope Francis has sent a message to participants at a conference taking place in Rome on the theme ‘Pope Paul VI, the pope of modernity”. In the message Pope Francis notes that the conference is taking place 50 years after the publication of his predecessor’s encyclical ‘Popolorum Progressio’, often described as one of the key Catholic Social Teaching documents. That encyclical, he said, sought to be a “solemn appeal for concerted action in favour of integral human development”. The appeal remains just as urgent today, Pope Francis said, as poverty increases and peace is threatened on a daily basis in different parts of the world..

At 10.00 this morning the Holy Father Francis received in audience H.E. Mr. San Lwin, ambassador of the Republic of the union of Myanmar, on the occasion of the presentation of his Credential Letters. Myanmar is on the upcoming papal travel schedule, as he will be visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh, Nov.ember 27 to December 2.

During his upcoming apostolic visit to Bangladesh, Pope Francis will ordain 16 priests.   The Pope, who will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, Nov. 27 – Dec. 2, will ordain the new priests on December 1 during an open-air morning Mass nat Suharawardy Udyan Park in the capital of Dhaka.  Some 10,000 people are expected to attend the Mass. There is only one seminary in Bangladesh, Holy Spirit Major Seminary. ‎ Ten of the future priests are diocesan, one is an Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and 5 are members of the Congregation of Holy Cross (CSC).