(New York October 14, 2015). In October 2012 a small group of people undertook an unusual rescue operation: they organized an international conference on the “Smiling Pope,” who served for just 33 days in 1978, titled “The True Pope John Paul I.” They wanted to rescue his memory, they say, from obscurity and from the distortions of sensationalistic authors.
After the success of the conference, in which Pia Luciani, the Pope’s niece, participated, the group incorporated as a non-profit: The Pope John Paul I Association. Now as the pope’s beatification process is in the news, they are launching an Indiegogo campaign to expand their work.
John Paul I was born Albino Luciani in the northern Italian village of Canale d’Agordo on October 17, 1912. His parents were migrant workers. He studied for the priesthood in his native diocese of Belluno and was ordained in 1935. After parish work and teaching in the seminary for a number of years, he was named bishop of Vittorio Veneto by Pope John XXIII in 1958 and took part in the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI named him Patriarch of Venice in 1969 and made him a cardinal in 1973. When he was elected Pope on August 26, 1978, he refused to be crowned with a tiara. As Pope, he was loved by the whole world for his captivating smile and his simple speaking style. He died suddenly a little over a month after his election, on September 28. The cause for his beatification was begun in 2003.
For a pope who served so short a time, John Paul I has attracted an enormous amount of controversy. In 1984, David Yallop published a book titled In God’s Name, which claimed he was a theological liberal who wanted to change the Church’s teaching on contraception, and was murdered with the complicity of Vatican cardinals. On the other hand, John Cornwell’s 1989 book, A Thief in the Night, suggested that John Paul I, who he described as a simple and unsophisticated man, was unfit to be Pope, and died because of neglect by the Vatican and the unbearable pressures of his job.
Dr. Lori Pieper, one of the founders of the association, says, “Our purpose is to take Pope John Paul I back from the Yallops and Cornwells of the world, to replace sensationalism and conspiracy theories with solid historical knowledge about him, and to promote the cause for his canonization. We do deal fully with the questions about his death. But there are so many other things people don’t know about him. He was for a poor Church long before Pope Francis. He had a love of the poor and the workers that came out of the poverty his own family experienced, and a deep understanding of the Church’s social teachings. He was a bishop who taught his flock the real meaning of Vatican II — he had practically memorized the Council documents. And he had a very rich spirituality, much of it based on his understanding of God’s mercy.”
To help people get to know John Paul I, Dr. Pieper has published her translation of some of his writings in A Passionate Adventure: Living the Catholic Faith Today. Other founding members of the Association include Paul Spackman, the author of God’s Candidate: the Life and Times of John Paul I, and Mo Guernon, who is also writing a biography, to be called Love Is a Journey: A Portrait of Pope John Paul I. The group also plans to hold other conferences, talks and workshops, and have expanded their website.
Dr. Pieper says, “It’s especially important to highlight Papa Luciani right now because all the documentation for his cause has just been completed, and the Vatican can now begin studying his life for evidence of heroic virtue. This process could result in him being declared Venerable soon. We are putting out prayer cards with his picture, and they have proved to be very popular. People from different parts of the world are already asking if they can start branches of our Association in their own countries. It’s really wonderful to be able to introduce people to this great Pope.”
A part of the proceeds of the Indiegogo campaign, which begins October 17, will be used to fund the publication of the conference papers and the audio of the talks. Perks include free copies of these and other works about John Paul I. The campaign page will also link to the Association’s petition asking Pope Francis to promote Papa Luciani’s teaching on mercy during the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy.
For more information, please contact Dr. Pieper at [email protected]
e-mail: [email protected]
Indiegogo campaign: http://igg.me/at/help-rescue-john-paul-i
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