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“John Paul I, Bishop of the Council and attentive to the signs of the times”

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With the approval of the miracle of the healing of the Argentine girl through the intercession of Albino Luciani, the “Pope of 33 days” will soon be proclaimed Blessed for the Catholic Church.

The figure of Albino Luciani does honor and is the result of that formation of the clergy of the dioceses of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto who gave the entire Church ecclesiastics of a spiritual, pastoral, cultural and social life, who wished and welcomed the Second Vatican Council , a qualifying event of the second half of the last century.

We think for example of Primo Mazzolari, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli then Giovanni XXIII, Don Giovanni Calabria, Girolamo Bortignon, Michele Pellegrino, Giovanni Battista Montini then Paul VI. Men who loved the Church and were deeply attentive to the transformative situations of their time.

Albino Luciani was born into an Agordino family where men emigrated either to Switzerland or France to have a certain economic security and the life of the villages was marked by the agricultural and artisan work of the elderly and women. So it was for Albino’s father.

In those areas the Church was a presence of both educational and spiritual attention. Albino Luciani grew up in this reality between help in the family, religious life and study.

He chose, with the consent of his socialist father, to go to the seminary to prepare himself to be a priest. He had some health problems, but he never failed in his duties of study and spiritual life. As a priest he was assigned as teacher and vice-rector of the Belluno Seminary. In his pastoral life he devoted himself particularly to teaching catechism, especially to children and young people. He was then Vicar General of the diocese of Belluno.

During the Nazi occupation he was certainly not on the side of the occupiers.

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Pope John XXIII wanted him to be Bishop of Vittorio Veneto and he himself ordained him in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In Vittorio Veneto he visited all the parishes “demanding” the Christian life, putting family prayer, participation in the liturgical life and catechesis to heart. He wanted his clergy to be culturally and spiritually prepared to be at the service of God and the people. He demanded discipline for his priests and obedience as a sign of love for the Church. He participated in the Second Vatican Council and worked with the Bishops of the Triveneto to study the schemes.

He was delegated by the Bishops of the Triveneto together with the bishop of Trieste Monsignor Santin to prepare and present proposals for the Council regarding the moral life of the spouses, for an opening towards the modalities in couple relationships.

He adapted to the line of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Paul VI wanted him to be Patriarch of Venice, where he had to face the “logic of ’68” which had also taken hold in various Catholic realities and among the clergy. A certain ideological pollution of those years in the life of the Church was stopped and this brought him suffering and misunderstanding both from university students and from some “worker priests” and more.

Albino Luciani was created cardinal by Paul VI who then in ’72, before going to Aquileia and Udine for the Eucharistic Congress, wanted to stop in Venice, where he “imposed” his pontifical stole, a gesture that made Patriarch Luciani blush and then it was seen as an omen.

Luciani as president of the Triveneta Episcopal Conference was alarmed by the question of the suppression of Banca S. Marco, which was a serious and generous opportunity for the parishes of Veneto, and spoke to Monsignor Marcinkus, who in the role of head of the IOR had weight in this matter . Marcinkus, as Luciani confided to Monsignor Santin, then vice-president of the Venetian Bishops, treated him “like a janitor” (this is his expression).

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When Paul VI died, Luciani was elected Bishop of Rome. Thus wrote Archbishop Santin, of whom Luciani had great esteem and veneration and who participated in the celebration of the beginning of the Pietrine ministry of John Paul I: “On Monday morning the Bishops of the Tre Venezie were with the Pope. It was a reasonable exception. Until yesterday he had been the President of our regional Bishops’ Conference. Born in our land, Bishop and then Patriarch, he had always been with us. Conferences, discussions, studies, spiritual exercises and he to participate and then to preside. Here, a dear and close brother. Now Pope. He receives us in his study. He in the middle and we around, happy. As soon as he sees me: Here is my prophet, but I answered you know, to his letter. Has received? No, Holy Father, but he will come.

A kiss in the hand and a hug to everyone. And he starts smiling: How did it go? I don’t realize it today. I just don’t understand how it happened. There was no time to think. To reject? It was going against God’s will. How to do it? I still think about it. I didn’t sleep that night. But you will pray for me. These days are shocking: receiving, speaking, giving speeches, breathless. But things will change. It will be possible to reflect with peace.

So he continues pleasantly, almost confiding in us, on this unexpected change in his mission, from Venice to the whole world. He smiles, but it’s a thoughtful smile.

And then to each of those present a particular word for him or for the diocese, amiably. As usual, the loudspeaker does not work and he has a thin voice. Fortunately, I’m close to him. But someone tells him, while he speaks to the individuals, and makes sure that the voice so dear and affable is heard well.

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And then a photograph. All together with him, as for many years, happy to have reconstituted this beautiful family for a few moments. And a quick hello.

Outside await the Royals of Belgium. But we tell the Pope that there are, apart from, our secretaries as well. And willingly nods. Before the royals, who are waiting with their court, he stays with our collaborators for a few moments. A word, a blessing, a photograph. Then a confidence to my secretary “.

Luciani’s pontificate was distinguished by its simple and at the same time learned catechesis on the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope and charity. As was his style, he called some boy present at the audience close to him, asking him questions and helping him with his answers, like a true catechist he was.

He intended to devote himself to the ecclesial life of Rome, which is why he refused to go to a pastoral meeting in Latin America.

As Patriarch he had been to visit his fidei donum priests in Latin America and knew the problems of those peoples and emigrants, who were very close to his heart, in memory of his father.

Then on the thirty-third day of his pontificate, during the night, the Lord called him to celebrate the liturgy of heaven.

* Episcopal Vicar for the Laity and Culture – Diocese of Trieste

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