I am so happy to hear the news about the John Paul I Vatican Foundation. I was in Rome when he was elected and for the Mass starting his far too brief pontificate. I was in Cairo, Egypt when he died and for the election of his successor, John Paul II. I’ve previously told that story on these pages – days and week that were unforgettable in a thousand ways!
If you want to read something totally delightful, get Albino Luciani’s “Illustrissimi,” a collection of 40 letters written over several years to people, historic and fictional, including Pinocchio, Jesus Christ, Charles Dickens, Maria Theresa of Austria, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesteron and King David
Cardinal Pietro Parolin has written a piece about John Paul I and I include that in today’s news. I especially imagine it will be relevant for those of you who may not have known John Paul I, his character and personality and his pontificate.
By the way, at his morning Mass today, Pope Francis prayed that people will prudently adhere to measures put in place for the easing of the quarantine so that the Covid-19 pandemic does not return.
I write about Italy’s Phase Two plan in a separate post.
10TH VATICAN EMPLOYEE POSITIVE WITH COVID-19
Statement by Holy See Press Office Director, Matteo Bruni: In recent days, another employee was found to be positive with Covid-19. The person had presented symptoms in March and remained in solitary confinement, continuing to work remotely. Having no symptoms, the employee is now in quarantine and the necessary health measures for the workplace have been taken as a precaution and checks have been carried out among colleagues, with negative results.
POPE FRANCIS ESTABLISHES THE JOHN PAUL I VATICAN FOUNDATION
The Vatican today published a rescript by Pope Francis, made following a February 10 audience with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, that established the institution of the John Paul I Vatican Foundation. It will have a juridic personality in both civil and canon law and an office within the Secretariat of State. The Foundation was officially established on February 17.
Born Albino Luciani in northern Italy, John Paul I was the archbishop of Venice when elected to the papacy on August 26, 1978, following the death of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI. Known as the “smiling pope,” Luciani was the first Pope in history to have a double name, selecting the names of his two predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI. He died on September 28 after a pontificate of only 33 days.
During his pontificate he was known as Pope John Paul. He became John Paul I when a second John Paul was elected on October 16, 1978.
According to a Holy See communiqué, “The purpose of the Foundation is to enhance and spread the knowledge of the thought, works and example of Pope John Paul I.” It will “protect and preserve the cultural and religious heritage left by Pope John Paul I; promote initiatives such as conferences, meetings, seminars, and study sessions; establish awards and scholarships; take care of the publishing activity by publishing both the results of its own studies and research, and works by third parties; propose itself as a reference point, in Italy and abroad, for those operating in the same area and with the same purposes (Articles of Association, art. 2).” Cardinal Parolin was named president of the John Paul I Vatican Foundation. Members include Dr. Lina Petri, a retired Holy See Press Office employee and niece of John Paul I.
JOHN PAUL I STILL RELEVANT TODAY
Pope Francis establishes a John Paul I Vatican Foundation presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.
By Cardinal Pietro Parolin
The Holy Father established the Vatican John Paul I Foundation on 17 February. This was done in response to the proposal made to create a body destined to deepen the person, thoughts and teachings of John Paul I (26 August 1978 – 28 September 1978) .
Pope John Paul I was, and remains, a point of reference in the history of the universal Church. His importance, as Saint John Paul II had pointed out, is inversely proportional to the length of his very short pontificate: “magis ostentus quam datus.”
The story of Albino Luciani is one of a pastor who is close to his people, centered on the essentials of faith and with an extraordinary social sensitivity. His magisterium is contemporary: proximity, humility, simplicity, insistence on God’s mercy, love of one’s neighbour and solidarity are the salient features.
He was a bishop who lived and applied the experience of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In his brief pontificate, he led the Church along the magisterial paths indicated by this Council: going back to the sources of the Gospel and a renewed missionary spirit, episcopal collegiality, service in ecclesial poverty, the search for Christian unity, interreligious dialogue, dialogue with the modern world and international dialogue, all conducted with perseverance and determination, in favour of justice and peace.
I think, for example, of his general audiences and his persistence on ecclesial poverty, universal brotherhood and active love for the poor. Along with the traditional precepts of the Church, he wanted to include a precept on works of solidarity, which he had proposed to the Italian bishops.
I am thinking also of the appeal he made during his Angelus of 10 September 1978 in which he asked for peace in the Middle East and addressed his prayer invitation to Presidents of different faiths. He had already made this appeal in his speech to the Diplomatic Corps on 31 August, during which he freed himself from presumptions of geopolitical protagonism and defined the nature and peculiarity of the diplomatic action of the Holy See from a viewpoint of faith.
Receiving then the more than one hundred representatives of the international missions present at the inauguration of his pontificate, he stressed how “our heart is open to all peoples, all cultures and all races.” He then affirmed: “We certainly do not have miraculous solutions to the world’s great problems, but we can nevertheless give something very precious: a spirit that helps to solve these problems and places them in the essential dimension, that of openness to the values of universal charity… so that the Church, humble messenger of the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth, can contribute to creating a climate of justice, brotherhood, solidarity and hope without which the world cannot live”.
And so, following in the footsteps of the Council’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, and in so many messages of Saint Paul VI, he acted in the wake of the great diplomacy that has given so many fruits to the Church, by nourishing Her with charity.
This history of the Church, dedicated to serving the world, was not interrupted with his sudden death. The perspective marked by his brief pontificate was not a side note. Although John Paul I’s governance of the Church could not unfold in time, he helped – explevit tempora multa – to strengthen the design of a Church that is close to the pain of the people and their thirst for charity.
Through John Paul I’s cause for canonisation, numerous sources have been accumulated today, beginning an important work of research and elaboration from a historical and historiographical perspective. It is now possible, therefore, to bequeath the memory of Pope Luciani, so that its historical value can be fully restored within the historical period. It can now be examined with the analytical rigor that is due to him and may open up new perspectives of study on his work.
In this regard, the establishment of a new ad hoc Foundation can rightfully fulfil the task not only of protecting the entire patrimony of the writings and works of John Paul I, but also of encouraging the systematic study and diffusion of his thought and spirituality – all the more motivated by the consideration of how his person and his message are extraordinarily relevant.