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September 2022 date set for beatification of Pope John Paul I

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially announces 4 September 2022 as the date for the beatification of Pope John Paul I. In October, Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the Italian Pope, who was head of the Church for 34 days.
Pope John Paul I. (Photo: Vatican Media)

Pope John Paul I will be beatified on 4 September 2022 in a celebration presided over by Pope Francis in the Vatican.

In October, the Holy Father signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul I (Albino Luciani), clearing the way for his beatification.

Two months later, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has officially announced his beatification, which was communicated to the postulator of the cause of canonization, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, and to Bishop Renato Marangoni of Belluno-Feltre, the diocese where Luciani's cause opened on November 23, 2003, and closed on November 9, 2017, with the proclamation of his heroic virtues.

In an article published Thursday in the Italian newspaper L’Avvenire, by vice-postulator of the cause, Stefania Falasca, John Paul I – the 263rd Pope, who spent 34 days at the head of the Church – is the sixth pontiff from the 1900s for whom a cause for beatification and canonization has been introduced. Of this group, four have already been proclaimed saints: Pius X, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.

The miracle approved in the cause of Pope John Paul I involves the healing of a young girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who suffered a case of “severe acute inflammatory encephalopathy, a malignant refractory epileptic illness, and septic shock.” Her situation was very serious, characterized by numerous daily seizures and a septic state of broncho-pneumonia.

According to Canon law, the Church will have to wait for the outcome of another Super miro (on the miracle) process after beatification to proceed to canonization.

Immediately after the death of the Italian Pope on 28 September 1978, requests for his canonization began to pour in from all parts of the world to the diocese where he was born. Through a grassroots initiative, a collection of signatures began, which soon became international, involving countries like Switzerland, France, Canada, and the United States. In 1990, the 226 bishops of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference also signed a petition requesting the introduction of the cause to Pope John Paul II.

The diocesan inquiry into his heroic virtues and reputation for holiness, the L’Avvenire article noted, took place from 2001-2004 under Bishop Vincenzo Savio of Belluno-Feltre, who in 2003, formally requested consent for the introduction of the process. On 17 June 2003, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints granted the nihil obstat.

On 23 November 2003, the process was formally opened at a ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica of Belluno. Father Pasquale Liberatore, the postulator-general of the Salesian family, was appointed the Postulator of John Paul I’s cause. Upon his death in 2003, the bishop appointed Msgr. Giorgio Lise as vice-postulator; and in 2004, a Salesian, Fr. Enrico dal Covolo as postulator, who in the meantime took over from Fr. Liberatore as general postulator of the Salesian Family. The ecclesiastical tribunal for the diocesan inquiry began its work on November 22, 2003, and concluded its work three years later. In the 203 sessions of the diocesan process, 167 witnesses were examined.

On November 9, 2007, examining the documents received to grant them validity, the ordinary Congress of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints observed that the documentation received presented various gaps in particular with reference to those preserved in the Historical Archives of the Patriarchate of Venice and in the Archives of the Bishops’ Conference of the Triveneto. To acquire this documentation, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints requested additional investigation. On March 25, 2008, the bishop of Belluno-Feltre, Giuseppe Andrich, established the tribunal for the diocesan supplementary inquiry and conferred the task on Dr. Stefania Falasca. Only after the delivery of these archival documents on June 13, 2008, was the formal validity of the acts of the diocesan inquiry recognized by decree.

Afterward began the Roman phase of the process, which included, among other things, the screening of all documentary and testimonial sources that demonstrate the heroic nature and virtues of Pope John Paul I and his reputation for holiness.

On June 27, 2008, Fr. Cristoforo Bove was appointed as rapporteur of the Cause, while the task of drafting the Positio was entrusted to Dr. Stefania Falasca, who, starting from 2012 was joined by Fr. Davide Fiocco. After the death of Fr. Bove, the task was assigned to Fr. Vincenzo Criscuolo, general relator of the same Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Between 2008 and 2015 the extra-processual depositions of 21 other witnesses were therefore also acquired, with particular reference to the period of the pontificate and the death of John Paul I, of which the testimony of Pope Benedict XVI is extremely important because it was the first time that a Pontiff issued a face to face testimony about a predecessor.

On October 16, 2015 the bishop of Belluno-Feltre appointed Cardinal Beniamino Stella, native of the diocese of Vittorio Veneto whom Pope John Paul I himself had initiated to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, as new postulator of the Cause.

On October 17, 2016, with the delivery of the Positio to the Congregation - composed of five volumes of over 3,600 pages in total - the scientific and editorial work that lasted eight years was concluded and the examination of the final judgment by the Congress of theological Consultors and the ordinary one of cardinals and bishops began. Both gave their unanimous positive vote in 2017. The Cause then concluded with the Pope's decree on November 8, 2017, with which the virtues of John Paul I were proclaimed.

At the end of November 2017, the diocesan investigation conducted in 2016 into the healing of the Argentine girl with the serious condition of encephalopathy was concluded. Having reached the Roman phase, the case was discussed by the Medical Council which on 31 October 2019 unanimously established that it was a scientifically inexplicable recovery. On May 6, 2021, the Congress of Theologians also expressed its opinion positively and the “super miro” process ended on October 5, 2021, with the positive vote of the ordinary session of cardinals and bishops. Then, with the decree of October 13, 2021, the miracle was recognized and sanctioned by Pope Francis.

Although his was one of the shortest papacies in history, Pope John Paul I, fondly remembered as the “smiling Pope,” left a lasting impression on the Church.

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