The timeliness of Pope Luciani
Meeting the proposal to create an entity designated to study in depth the person, thought and teachings of John Paul I (26 August 1978 – 28 September 1978), on 17 February the Holy Father Francis constituted the John Paul I Vatican Foundation.
Pope John Paul I was and remains a reference point in the history of the universal Church, whose importance — as Saint John Paul II p ointed out — is inversely proportional to the duration of his extremely brief Pontificate “magisostentus quam datus”.
Albino Luciani’s life history is that of a pastor close to the people, centred on the essential of faith and with extraordinary social sensitivity.
Closeness, humility, simplicity, insistence on the mercy of God, love of neighbour and solidarity were his salient traits. He was a bishop who lived the experience of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, applied it, and in his brief Pontificate helped the Church advance along the main paths it indicated: a return to the wellsprings of the Gospel and a renewed missionary approach, episcopal collegiality, service in ecclesial poverty, seeking Christian unity, interreligious dialogue, dialogue with contemporaneity and international dialogue, conducted with perseverance and determination, in favour of justice and peace.
I think, for example, of his General Audiences and on his insistence on ecclesial poverty, on universal fraternity and on active love for the poor: he wanted to include among the traditional precepts of the Church a command on the works of solidarity and he proposed it to Italian bishops. I think of his appeal at the Angelus of 10 September 1978 in favour of peace in the Middle East, with the invitation to prayer addressed to the Presidents of different faiths. An appeal that he had previously expressed in his address to the Diplomatic Corps held on 31 August, in which, freeing himself from the presumptions of geopolitical attentionseeking, he defined the nature and particularity of the Holy See’s diplomatic work beginning from a gaze of faith. Then receiving more than 100 representatives of international missions present at the inauguration of his Pontificate, he emphasized that “our heart is open to all peoples, all cultures and all races”, to then affirm: “Of course, we do not have miraculous solutions for the great world problems, however we can offer something very precious: a spirit that helps to dissolve these problems and position 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 peoples of the earth, may contribute to create a climate of justice, brotherhood, solidarity and hope, live”. And thus, in the wake of the Conciliar Constitution Gaudium et Spes, as in many of the messages of Saint Paul VI, he moved in the wake of great diplomacy, bearing many fruits to the Church, nourishing her with charity. With his sudden death this history of the Church, so bowed to serve the world, was not interrupted The perspective marked by his brief Pontificate was not a parenthetical.
Although John Paul I’s governance of the Church was not able to unfold in history, he nevertheless contributed — explevit tempora multa — to strengthen the design of a Church close to the people’s suffering and to their thirst for charity. Through the cause for the Canonization of John Paul Paul I to day the acquisition of sources has been accomplished, launching a work of important research and elaboration from a historical and historiographic viewpoint. Thus a proper restitution of the memory of Pope Luciani is now possible, so that his historical value can be fully restored in the historical contingencies crossed with the analytical rigour that he is due and to open new study perspectives on his work.
In this regard the constitution of a new ad hoc Foundation can rightly fulfil the task not only of protecting the entire patrimony of the writings and work of John Paul I, but also provide incentive for the systematic study and dissemination of his thought and his spirituality. All the more motivated by the consideration of how extraordinarily timely his person and his message are.
Cardinal, Secretary of State