Once again John Paul I’s smile from the Loggia of Blessings symbolically radiated around the world. It is the smile that characterised him throughout his life and that Chinese artist Yan Zhang captured on the tapestry with Luciani’s portrait, displayed on the facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica. The image was unveiled as soon as Pope Francis finished pronouncing the beatification formula on Sunday morning, 4 September, in front of some 25,000 people, announcing that Blessed Luciani’s feast shall be celebrated every 26 August.
A warm round of applause followed from the faithful, who, despite the rain, had come in large numbers from all over Italy, especially from the Veneto region, from the dioceses with direct ties to Luciani: Belluno-Feltre where he was born, Vittorio Veneto where he served as bishop, and Venice, where he served as patriarch.
It was the bishop of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre, Renato Marangoni, who asked the Pontiff to add Albino Luciani to the ranks of the Blessed, while Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Postulator of the Cause of Beatification — with deputy Postulator Stefania Falasca at his side — read a short biography.
Then, a relic of the new Blessed was brought to the altar. It was an outline for a spiritual reflection on the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity — that recalls the magisterium of Pope John Paul I’s General Audiences.
The reliquary was designed and produced by sculptor Franco Murer. It is made of a stone collected from the valley floor of Canale d’Agordo, Luciani’s hometown, and a wooden cross carved from a tree that fell during the storm Vaia in October 2018. The relic and reliquary will be kept in the cathedral in Belluno. The diocese will celebrate the new blessed on Sunday, 11 September, in the square in Canale d’Agordo, and the vicariates into which the diocese is divided have been invited to convene a pilgrimage to Luciani’s hometown this coming fall.
At the moment of the consecration, Cardinals Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State and President of the John Paul I Foundation, and Beniamino Stella approached the altar in Saint Peter’s Square. Concelebrating were Patriarch Francesco Moraglia of Venice, Bishop Marangoni, and Corrado Pizziolo, priest of Vittorio Veneto.
The rite was attended by several cardinals, including the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re. With the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See were Archbishops Edgar Peña Parra, Deputy of the Secretariat of State; Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations; and Monsignor Joseph Murphy, head of Protocol. Many prelates of the Roman Curia also attended.
Numerous official delegations were present. Leading them: for Italy, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella; for the Principality of Monaco, Pierre Dartout, prime minister; for China (Taiwan), Chien-Jen Chen, former vice president. A delegation from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta was also present.
Among the dignitaries were Federico d’Incà, minister for relations with the Parliament of the Italian Republic; Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto Region; the president of the province and the mayor of Belluno; the mayor of Canale d’Agordo; Luciani’s nieces and nephews; and Angelo Gugel, who had been one of John Paul I’s aides.