Pope Francis establishes a John Paul I Vatican Foundation presided over by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.
The Hoy Father established the Vatican John Paul I Foundation on 17 February. This was done in response to the proposal made to create a body destined to deepen the person, thoughts and teachings of John Paul I (26 August 1978 – 28 September 1978).
Pope John Paul I was, and remains, a point of reference in the history of the universal Church. His importance, as Saint John Paul II had pointed out, is inversely proportional to the length of his very short pontificate: “magis ostentus quam datus“.
The story of Albino Luciani is one of a pastor who is close to his people, centred on the essentials of faith and with an extraordinary social sensitivity. His magisterium is contemporary: proximity, humility, simplicity, insistence on God’s mercy, love of one’s neighbour and solidarity are the salient features.
He was a bishop who lived and applied the experience of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In his brief pontificate, he led the Church along the magisterial paths indicated by this Council: going back to the sources of the Gospel and a renewed missionary spirit, episcopal collegiality, service in ecclesial poverty, the search for Christian unity, interreligious dialogue, dialogue with the modern world and international dialogue, all conducted with perseverance and determination, in favour of justice and peace.
I can think, for example, of his general audiences and his persistence on ecclesial poverty, universal brotherhood and active love for the poor. Along with the traditional precepts of the Church, he wanted to include a precept on works of solidarity, which he had proposed to the Italian bishops.
I am thinking, also, of the appeal he made during his Angelus of 10 September 1978 in which he asked for peace in the Middle East and addressed his prayer invitation to Presidents of different faiths. He had already made this appeal in his speech to the Diplomatic Corps on 31 August, during which he freed himself from presumptions of geopolitical protagonism and defined the nature and peculiarity of the diplomatic action of the Holy See from a viewpoint of faith. Receiving then the more than one hundred representatives of the international missions present at the inauguration of his pontificate, he stressed how “our heart is open to all peoples, all cultures and all races.” He then affirmed: “We certainly do not have miraculous solutions to the world’s great problems, but we can nevertheless give something very precious: a spirit that helps to solve these problems and places 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 the peoples of the earth, can contribute to creating a climate of justice, brotherhood, solidarity and hope without which the world cannot live.” And so, following in the footsteps of the Council’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, and in so many messages of Saint Paul VI, he acted in the wake of the great diplomacy that has given so many fruits to the Church, by nourishing Her with charity.
This history of the Church, dedicated to serving the world, was not interrupted with his sudden death. The perspective marked by his brief pontificate was not a side note. Although John Paul I’s governance of the Church could not unfold in time, he helped – explevit tempora multa – to strengthen the design of a Church which is close to the pain of the people and their thirst for charity.
Through John Paul I’s cause for canonisation, numerous sources have been accumulated today, beginning an important work of research and elaboration from a historical and historiographical perspective. It is now possible, therefore, to bequeath the memory of Pope Luciani, so that its historical value can be fully restored within the historical period. It can now be examined with the analytical rigour that is due to him and may open up new perspectives of study on his work.
In this regard, the establishment of a new ad hoc Foundation can rightfully fulfil the task not only of protecting the entire patrimony of the writings and works of John Paul I, but also of encouraging the systematic study and diffusion of his thought and spirituality – all the more motivated by the consideration of how his person and his message are extraordinarily relevant.
With thanks to Vatican News and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, where this article originally appeared.