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Pope John Paul I, who reigned for a month, advances on the path of holiness


ROME — Pope Francis on Wednesday approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I, who reigned only 33 days in 1978. The decision paves the way for the beatification of the late pontiff, the greatest honor of the Catholic Church without holiness.

The Vatican did not immediately announce a date or location for the beatification ceremony, but the previous beatifications of the popes were celebrated by the reigning pontiff in the Vatican.

The beatification of Pope John Paul II by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 attracted over a million pilgrims who filled Saint Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets.

In the Catholic Church, beatification paves the way for public veneration and is the most important step towards canonization, the Pope’s definitive declaration that a dead person has led a holy life and is now in heaven.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, head of the Vatican’s office for the causes of saints, told the official Vatican News that the miracle attributed to John Paul I was the healing of a girl from Buenos Aires who suffered from “very serious neurological problems , conditions. “The healing occurred about 10 years ago and the patient, now almost 20 years old, is in good health, Cardinal Stella said.

For the church to consider a miraculous healing, medical experts must conclude that there was no scientific explanation for this and the Vatican must verify that people prayed for the healing of the person being considered for beatification after his death. , asking him for intercession with God. A second such miracle, occurring after beatification, is ordinarily required for canonization as a saint.

John Paul I was both the shortest-reigning pope in modern times and the most recent Italian native to hold the post.

He was born Albino Luciani in the northeastern region of Veneto in Italy on October 17, 1912. His father was a seasonal emigrant who worked in mines in northern Europe and Argentina. The future Pope entered the priesthood and was Bishop of the Diocese of Vittorio Veneto until 1969, when Saint Paul VI appointed him Patriarch, or Archbishop, of Venice. The Pope made him a cardinal in 1973.

On August 26, 1978, following the death of Saint Paul VI, Cardinal Luciani was elected to succeed him. He was immediately nicknamed “the smiling Pope” for his affable and approachable style. He ended the tradition of the papal coronation, opting instead for a simpler inaugural Mass. He was also the first pope to take a double name, in honor of his immediate predecessors Saint John XXIII and Saint Paul VI.

On September 29, 34 days later, the new Pope was found dead in his bed in the Vatican, having suffered a heart attack, apparently the day before. There have been various conspiracy theories alleging that he was murdered, but none have been substantiated.

More than 80 of the 266 popes in history have been recognized as saints. If John Paul I is finally canonized, then four popes in a row, from Saint John XXIII to Saint John Paul II, will have been declared saints.

Pope Francis recognized the trend in 2018 when, in a joking reference to himself and his immediate predecessor, he told priests in Rome: “Benedict and I are on the waiting list.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at francis.rocca@wsj.com

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