Here is an article I wrote for the website of the Pope John Paul I Association
(Canale D’Agordo, August 26, 2016).
His fourth-grade school notebook, the little bag he used in the seminary with his initials, his personal chalice, the vestments he wore as a bishop, the suitcase he took with him when he left Venice for the conclave – these are among the most moving exhibits of the new museum dedicated to Pope John Paul I.
On Friday, August 26, 2016, the 38th anniversary of his election as Pope, the Museo Albino Luciani-Giovanni Paolo I was formally inaugurated in his hometown, the village of Canale D’Agordo in the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, presided over the ceremony after the solemn Mass concelebrated in the village square by Cardinal Parolin, Renato Marangoni, the Bishop of Belluno and Giuseppe Andrich, the Bishop Emeritus of Belluno.
“The exhibition is characterized by the special involvement of the visitor,” says the museum’s curator Loris Serafini, “who, as he hears or reads a sort of autobiography taken from the writings of the Pope, is conducted in the experience by the words of Albino Luciani himself.”
The Pope’s voice accompanies some significant moments, and lights, sounds, pictures, film clips, documents, clothes, objects, and text contribute to creating an atmosphere that evokes the time periods of the life of Albino Luciani, from the early 20th century to 1978. “Emotion will no doubt be aroused by the spontaneous story of the conclave narrated by the voice of the new Pope John Paul I after his election, or watching the home movies of the Sixties and Seventies that capture him as bishop of Vittorio Veneto, patriarch of Venice or Pope,” says Serafini. “The simplicity and linearity of this museum are intended to leave in the memory of those who visit an echo of the humility, humanity and faith that characterized the personality and life of Albino Luciani.”
The exhibits that up to now have been housed in the rectory in Canale D’Agordo have been moved into the city’s old town hall next to the parish church. They also include an evocation of local history that gives background to the Pope’s life.
At the same time, some of the major players conducting Luciani’s cause for canonization are giving assurance that the process is advancing. Stefania Falasca, the vice-postulator of the cause, notes that the Positio or dossier which certifies among other things, the Christian virtues professed by Luciani, printed in 5 volumes and 3,600 pages, is about to be examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The material they contain, she says, reveals his personality and life’s work, which deserve to be rediscovered and returned to their dignity.
The Positio will be examined by two committees, one made up of theologians and the other of bishops and cardinals. If the outcome is positive, Pope Francis will conclude this part of the process with the proclamation that Luciani practiced Christian virtue to a heroic degree and will name him Venerable. Then the Congregation will examine the evidence for a miracle worked through the intercession of the late Pope. Recently news has come of a miraculous healing in Latin America, about which an absolute reserve is being maintained, but which may turn out to be the one submitted to the Congregation.
Cardinal Beniamino Stella, who heads the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, grew up in the diocese of Vittorio Veneto and attended the seminary while Luciani was bishop there. He recently took over the job of postulator of the cause for his beatification. “I believe in the sanctity of the Christian life of John Paul I, a sanctity that is lived in humility and daily self-giving to the Church and one’s neighbor in need, inspired by the theological virtues, practiced with interior fervor, and where the cross and sacrifice, and sometimes humiliation contribute to making the disciple of Jesus closer to his Lord,” said Stella. He invited people to pray that the miracle might be recognized on examination by the Vatican authorities.
Some newspapers speculated that the process might be finished by 2018, which will mark the 40th anniversary of John Paul I’s election and his death. But Cardinal Parolin is cautious. “I am not the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” he said, “so I cannot say anything. The hope is that we will go forward with a certain speed and that we should pray for the miracle.”
Reporting from Il Corriere delle Alpi, of July 7, August 24, and August 26, 2016.