Local Conference Will Focus on John Paul I

Pope John Paul I

An international conference focusing on the saintly life and startling death of Pope John Paul I after a pontificate of only 33 days in 1978 will be held on Oct. 12-13 at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.

The two-day event coincides with the centenary of the late pope’s birth. The conference, billed as “The True Pope John Paul I: A Man of Faith for Our Time,” will feature several experts from Europe and the United States, including the pope’s niece, Pia Luciani, and one of the prime movers in his cause for beatification, Italian journalist Stefania Falasca. All of the talks will be open to the general public.

The event comes at a timely moment, in the wake of recent news reports suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI might beatify his predecessors John Paul I and Paul VI in 2013 as part of the celebrations for the Year of Faith.

For a pope who served so short a time, John Paul I has attracted an enormous amount of global devotion and an equal amount of controversy. Best-selling books, plays and movies have alleged foul play in his death (In God’s Name by David Yallop) or even contended he died because he was not fit to be pope (A Thief in the Night by John Cornwell).

Dr. Lori Pieper, one of the organizers of the event, explains, “The purpose of the conference is to take John Paul I back from all the Yallops and Cornwells and to establish an accurate portrait of him based on sound historical research.

“Too often, only the controversies are remembered, while his fascinating life and his message of hope have largely been forgotten. As a bishop, he was a great supporter of Vatican II and anticipated the New Evangelization in many ways,” she said.

Pieper has translated some of John Paul I’s pre-papal writings for the upcoming book, A Passionate Adventure: Living the Catholic Faith Today, to be published by Tau Cross Books and Media.

John Paul I was born Albino Luciani in Canale D’Agordo, Italy, on Oct. 17, 1912. He was ordained a priest in 1935 and served as bishop of Vittorio Veneto, 1958-1969, and Patriarch of Venice, 1969-1978. He was named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1973.

Cardinal Luciani was elected pope, succeeding Pope Paul VI, on Aug. 26, 1978, a surprise choice on the first day of balloting. The world was shocked when he died suddenly on Sept. 28.

As pope, he immediately had enchanted the world with his captivating smile, his humility and his simple speaking style. He also made some bold choices: He was the first pontiff to choose a double name; he wanted to abandon use of the sedia gestatoria; he refused the 1,000-year-old tradition of being crowned with a tiara; and he chose instead a simple ceremony and the imposition of pallium, the garment of a shepherd, a practice that popes have followed ever since.

The diocesan cause for John Paul I’s beatification began in 2003. In October, after receiving all of the relevant testimonies and documents, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will begin examining his life for evidence of heroic virtue.

The conference in Queens will include meals and opportunities to meet with the speakers. Attendees can register for either or both days. Part of Friday evening’s presentations will be devoted to the controversies surrounding the pope’s death.

For more details about the conference or to register, visit www.jpicentenary.org.

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