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Pope Francis beatifies the ‘smiling Pope’

The following story appeared in the September 9 Idaho Catholic Register.

Pope John Paul I


Pope Francis beatified John Paul I, who reigned as pope for only 33 days, amid a thunderstorm in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Sept. 4.


Pope Francis said that John Paul I “embodied the poverty of a disciple” through his “victory over the temptation to put oneself at the center, to seek one’s own glory.”


Often called “the smiling pope,” John Paul I died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, 1978, a month after the conclave that elected him.


In one of the shortest pontificates in papal history, John Paul I gained a reputation for his humility and his dedication to teaching the faith in an understandable manner.


Cardinals stood in the rain under yellow and white umbrellas as Pope Francis read out the declaration that Pope John Paul I can now be venerated locally on his feast day on Aug. 26.


“With a smile, Pope John Paul I managed to communicate the goodness of the Lord,” Francis said.


“How beautiful is a Church with a happy, serene and smiling face, that never closes doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbors resentment, does not grow angry or impatient, does not look dour or suffer nostalgia for the past. Let us pray to him, our father and our brother, and ask him to obtain for us ‘the smile of the soul.’ ”


During the beatification, a large banner on St. Peter’s Basilica unveiled a portrait of Blessed Pope John Paul I as the pope’s postulator processed through the square with a relic – a handwritten note by the blessed pope on the theological virtues.


John Paul I presided over only four general audi-ences as pope, offering catecheses on poverty, faith, hope, and charity. Pope Francis quoted these cateche-ses throughout his homily.


“As Pope John Paul I said, if you want to kiss Jesus crucified, ‘You cannot help bending over the cross and letting yourself be pricked by a few thorns of the crown on the Lord’s head’ A love that perseveres to the end, thorns and all: no leaving things half done, no cutting corners, no fleeing difficulties,” Pope Francis said.


John Paul I was the first pope to be born in the 20th century and the most recent pope to be born in Italy. Born Albino Luciani on Oct. 17, 1912, the future John Paul I grew up in relative poverty in Italy's northern Veneto region.


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