Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani

 

Part X

 

 

 

 

 

 

" Pope John Paul I remains as a figure surrounded by  

mystery : fascinating, cheerful, attractive, a star that falls, but full of mystery. When you are about to reach it, it escapes from you.  

". 

Jean Guitton

 

 


 

A microphone that doesnít work

 

" In agreement with my Bishop, in Autumn ' 76, I was in Venice to ask the Patriarch if he would preside over a celebration at Frasinelle Polesine in the XXV anniversary of Po alluvium. He welcomed me as a brother and literally 'turned somersaults'  to ensure he could attend. He succeeded; after making many telephone calls, and cancelling other appointments. I had met in person and unexpectedly a true Christian, Priest, Bishop, and friend. Leaving the Patriarchy, I felt I had 'wings' to fly. (...)

In the poor church of Frassinelle, the audio system was wrong. I felt 'down', knowing of the voice problems of our illustrious guest. The disadvantage, however, was transformed into something well different; after lunch and giving him my sincere thanks for all, I again told him about my desolation which made him  more tired. He took my hand and told me: I have come and I am thankful to you; thankful to your people for so many gifts... Now, itís your turn to return the visit. When you come to Venice - if you can Ė donít forget to call-into the Patriarchy : there is don Diego, there are the Nuns... and also the Patriarch ".

I didnít think that I would have taken him at his word. First with a fifth degree class at the primary school, then with one of third year at the secondary school, a group of parents, the altar-boys, some young people : the occasions were multiplied until it made me think that perhaps it was too much. However, he was always available: he called the Ducal Palace, the Campanile and St. Markís Treasure to inform them that his guests were arriving ... He was put second to  the boys interviews... "

 

 

" He cheers up all the palace " 

" It gave the impression of the presence of that aloof and wise man inside a majestic palace of other times. " Nevertheless,"  sister Vincenza said,  "when the Patriarch is at home, even though when he sits there on that small divan to pray in silence, he fills and cheers up all the palace ". 

don Licio Boldrin

from " Humilitas ", 1985

 


 

Almost secretly

 

" Albino Luciani  was one of the Cardinals who was less seen in Rome; also in the Curia offices but, mainly, in external environments.

Once, he came to Chigi Palace in 1972 to defend a humanitarian cause in the attire of a simple Priest, and my employee asked me at the end of the morning if we had still to wait for the Cardinal of Venice ". 

 

Giulio Andreotti

from " A ogni morte di Papa. I Papi che ho conosciuto ", 1982

 


 

Modesty 

Episodes from the time in which don Albino was Monsignor.  

" Monsignor, a little red, perhaps a thread, would suit you ! " " Come on, come on; you are crazy! " Ė he replied in a friendly way. " I am not interested in ... these stupidities".

A. Salvato

from " La Sorgente ", 1980

 

 

" I found him between a group of seminarians, students of Theology, talking with affability. " Is it don Albino ? ", I asked. All were surprised when I called him " don " being a Monsignor. I blushed, but he put his hand on my head and said: " They are joking ".

don Cesare Vazza

from " L'Amico del Popolo ", 30/9/78

 


 

The last audience to a Vatican head of dicastery

Fragments of an interview made by " 30 Giorni " in 1998 to Cardinal Bernardin Gantin :

- To tell the truth, here it has also been the only curial nomination made by John Paul I during his brief Pontificate. From Pro-president, in fact, Pope Luciani nominated you as President of " Cor Unum ". Not only that; John Paul I received you in audience in the last day of his Pontificate, on September 28th.

GANTIN: Yes, it has been the last audience granted to a head of dicastery. In the evening of that day in which he had welcomed us with great kindness, with his smile, arranging the chairs  himself so that we could be near him, nobody could imagine that, a few hours later, he would have passed away to Eternity with the Lord. I still keep a photo of that audience as one of the most precious things.  

 

 

 

We were four: the Pope, I, the Secretary of ĎIustitia et Paxí, the Jesuit Roger Heckel, and the Secretary of " Cor Unum ", the Dominican Henri de Riedmatten. The other three are all dead, I am the only  survivor of that audience ... John Paul I, I repeat, was a man of great humility; we all know his motto: " Humilitas ". Also his Pontificate had been, from the temporal point of view, humble, hardly thirty- three days;  but significant.

 

 


 

Oil or wine ? 

" When he was a guest for a meal anywhere, he always went personally to the kitchen to thank all those who had prepared the food. This custom caused, at the beginning, not a little perplexity amongst the house-women and the cooks who were suddenly in front of  'Your Excellence', the Bishop, when they still had their aprons on and their hands were wet.

During a pastoral visit to Caorle, to a Summer colony, something embarassing happened; in the course of the lunch, oil instead of wine was poured in error into the Bishopís glass ! Such a mistake is easily explained, because often the olive oil is conserved in the same bottles which are used for the wine and, in the confusion of the preparations for the Bishops' visit, a thing like that could certainly happen... Still, Luciani drank, not much (he drank rarely and very little), but enough, to save the parish Priest, his host, and the person responsible for  the 'accident', being embarassed. In spite of it, his neighbour at the table had noticed the change : " But, Excellence, this is oil !" "Yes", Luciani said; "it  also seems to me to be oil ".

Don Giacomo Ferrighetto 


 

Uncomfortable clothes 

" In the successive years, already Bishop and Cardinal, he didn'ít wish to be other than  'don Albino', consecrated by God. No pomp, no outer sign of dignity, (unless it was absolutely necessary). He hated all those things. As soon as he returned home after an official ceremony, for which he had 'had' to wear the official Bishopís clothes, the first thing he did was to take off those uncomfortable clothes to put on the simple black cassock again.

In a certain town near Vittorio Veneto, Luciani appeared , humble and simply dressed (as always!). A farmer, who had a son a Priest, and whose idea of  a Bishop evidently did not agree with the outer aspect of don Albino, did not hide his surprise and, with manifest disagreement, he whispered into the ear of someone who was close to him : " For Godís sake, this one is not a Bishop who wants to break through".

Msgr. Giovanni Ronchi 


 

Good bye friendship ! 

" When I was presented to Monsignor Luciani, as soon as he was nominated as Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, I knelt down to kiss his ring and began telling him: " Your Excellence, forgive me if... ". He stood up quickly, saying: " Oh, not like this, my dear Father Strim. You begin to be 'distant' with me, and I am not in agreement with that at all. You must always be on familiar terms, as usual; if not, good bye to our old friendship !", and he gave a big smile ".

don Giuseppe Strim

Lucianiís friend and companion of Seminary

from " Il Celentone "

 


 

I canít feel the Holy Spirit 

" When I became a Deacon in Innsbruck, that Bishop made me feel well, imposing his hands onto my head, that passed the Holy Spirit through them. When I became a Priest, Luciani also imposed his hands on me but in a such a slight way that made me think the Holy Spirit had forgotten me! However, that paternal imposition corresponded better to the Biblical fluttering of the Spirit. In the hunting of his memories, at Pietralba, I have also been in the room that he normally occupied when he came here. Nothing has changed: such panels, the same Crucifix, the same desk. Then I sat in front of the desk, I thought about my ordination and almost as if I had him  in front of me, I told him: " Thanks, Pope Luciani: if others remember you for so many reasons, I will always remember you for that imposition of your hands on me: light, paternal, lovely ".

don Giuseppe Corradi

 


 

Anguish in the heart 

"One day, meeting him for the pastoral visit, I told him: " Excellence, your presence fills me with a little fear ". " But how ? ", he answered me, " I am a man like others " and saying like that he sat down next to me and opened his spirit to the most warm confidence. No, he was a shepherd who did not use the crosier heavily, and he ddin't fill anyone with fear. His appearance was smooth and light like the caressing golden noticed by prophet Isaiah in the tenebrous cavern. His firmness, in  principles and in  discipline, did not descend to transactions. When he had to repress someone, he did it with great sadness. One morning, he came to me at the parish house without advance warning. He sat down; he was tired; his face was tense. At a certain point, he confided to me: " Tonight I have not slept."  Knowing about his weak health, I asked him: " Excellence, arenít you feeling well? ". He answered me:  "I couldnít fall asleep because, having repressed a colleague, I carry in my spirit all the sorrow that I have had to cause to he who was the object of my correction."

don Pietro Battistella

 


 

The tornado tragedy 

"An air spout, the night of Friday September 11th, devastated the island of Santa Elena, turning round an Acnil motorboat causing several casualties, continuing its devastating work up to Cŗ Savio with dead and injured people amongst the camping holiday-makers . The Patriarch,  in his room, had not realized during the big storm  what had happened only a short distance away. I was constantly on the phone, requesting news from the Prefecture, from "Il GazzettinoĒ, from hospitals. At about 11.00p.m., I  decided to call the Patriarch over the intercom. He answered: "I'll go immediately; call a taxi." However, all taxis were busy.

In  silence, broken by comments, voices, we arrived at Santa Elenaís wharf : the photoelectric cells illuminated an ample area of lagoon. There was a motorboat submerged; the divers occasionally brought  a body to the surface, and it was loaded immediately onto the "Blue Cross" motorboat and taken to a hospital. 

There was silence, like a Tomb. The Patriarch joined his hands, placed them to his lips, and prayed. Local people and officials came close, they greeted him with a sign, gave news, data, numbers. With the Prefecture motorboat, they led us to the Sea Hospital morgue : the first row of victims of the air spout was striking, and the meeting with some of their relatives was painful. We returned home in the morning at about 4.00a.m., and at 7.00a.m., we were already again travelling to Santa Elena, the Sea Hospital, the civil Hospital of Venice, the hospital and the colony of the Red Cross of Jesolo to visit the wounded and to bless the bodies of Cŗ Savio camping : the air spout had passed, causing devestation and cutting trees, houses, tents from the lagoon to Santa Elena, in the lagoon, in Cŗ Savio, raising and striking against the ground people and objects. On Sunday, at Caorle, I was due to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of the Angel with the procession to the sea. But, at the Cathedral, after having celebrated  Mass and having said the Homily, between the silent people who noticed a manís pain, a fatherís, a Bishopís, the Patriarch said: " I am sorry about not remaining with you for the celebration but, the tornado tragedy that I carry carved on a fatherís heart, tells me that I must return home to cry and pray ..."

 

Msgr. Mario Senigaglia

from " Humilitas ", 1985

 


 

A Patriarch amongst the poor 

"Within a few days of his arrival in Venice, leaving the study, Luciani noticed the great tide of people and  the strange scent that had filled the waiting rooms, he asked me: " Who are they ? ". " They are the poor : they never lack ". He wanted to go and greet them : I introduced them to him one by one (perhaps about sixty or seventy in number). For each he had a smile and a word. Then he said: " Remember, the Patriarchís door is always open. Ask don Mario, and what I can do for you I will always do it and with pleasure ". " Excellence - I mumbled - you will ruin me: they will not leave me in peace ". He smiled saying: " Somebody will help us ". Poor, unadaptable, drunkards, released prisoners, women who couldnít even walk the streets, clients of the  'nocturnal asylums' ,and beggars ... were his friends. For many of them, we found  houses and work ( it was easier then than today!), and they all were given to according to their needs. I still keep some letters. One day, I showed one to the Patriarch; he almost cried. It came from a sanatorium: " I eat three times a day and also so much. I have a bed with sheets and blankets and my personal clothes are changed twice a week. It seems to me I have returned to the orphanage. I am thankful to the Patriarch for the beautiful pyjamas with his initials. He seems to me to be a Pope and I hope so much to remain longer, even though I am not happy not to go for Easter to greet you ... ".

Sometimes, from the entrance, they warned: ex- prisoners. It was not only to make money or to find a job, but often, one was to make them surpass the distrust in everything and in all. It wasn't always easy. Nevertheless, how many of them wrote to  him to thank him for  being the only one who would help  them and give them confidence. One day, one of these people told me: " My children must know that, if one day the Patriarch hadnít paid for my ticket to Germany, today I would have neither work nor family ".

Msgr. Mario Senigaglia

from " La Sorgente ", 1983

 


 

" Thief " 

Summer 1922, the final term of the third scholastic year. Another complaint was made to Mrs. Luciani about her eldest son. That time, the matter was serious. He had behaved in an intolerable way and the elderly teacher, boiling with indignation, went to Lucianiís home. What had happened? Luciani had called her a thief! Why? The explanation was simple: at the beginning of the scholastic year, the teacher had requested  Albino to loan a book, which he no longer used, to a poor student. He did so with pleasure but when, at the end of the scholastic year, he had asked the teacher to return the book to him, she had asked him why he wanted that old and worn-out book. More than enough reason for Albino (who was almost nine years old) to call the teacher a 'thief' . It was not only the fact that the book was his, so she could not do what she wanted with it. On the other hand, to demonstrate his generosity towards others, we have  the example of the first slice of white bread that he had kept for his little brother, Edoardo. No, even though a book was for him an extremely expensive and precious posession, it was not a determining reason for such a serious accusation. His sense of right and justice had undergone a serious blow because of the teacherís reaction, which was, to him, incomprehensible.

" The boy doesnít bear partialities and injustices and, when he sees or he thinks to see them, he suffers, moves away locking into himself. In this matter, things that are trivialities for us, acquire an extraordinary importance for the boy". (Luciani Albino, Catechesis in breadcrumbs)

How important this was to make him call his teacher a Ďthiefí. The teacher reacted without realizing  her pupilís indignation, without any pedagogic knowledge and ability to be able to come in the child psychology, embarassing his mother, Bortola,  into taking steps to remedy the matter.

from " Una vita per la Chiesa "

by Regina Kummer

 


 

A warning to his friend, a parish Priest 

"Once I went to visit one of my school friends (who was a parish Priest) and I stopped  at the church door (then I was General Vicar) to read the warnings. It was written: " Women do not enter if wearing sleeveless or short-sleeved clothes ", etc. Then he had also written: "Women will not be given Holy Communion if they wear lipstick".

" Oh", I said,  "don, how is this possible ?". " That is something repugnant", he answered me,  "and I do not want it ". "Who gives you this authority? You are not a Bishop at all. You cannot, friend, I am sorry, but you must take that warning out. Even though you have this opinion, you cannot do this. In addition, at the neighboring parish it is allowed; the same in the city : they are going to receive the Communion with made-up lips, even though being Catholic Action Presidents. But you, why? You are not a legislator, you cannot do  this".

Albino Luciani

from " Il buon samaritano "

 


 

A written premonition 

From a letter sent by the parish Priest of Tambre d'Alpago, don Giovanni Luchetta, to the parish Priest of Canale D'Agordo, don Rinaldo Andrich: " Dear, don Rinaldo, now pay  good attention to my premonition about the new Pope : he will be elected, after few ballots, H.E. Cardinal Albino Luciani from Canale D'Agordo ! You will have to ring the bells and organize the celebrations ..."

from " L'Amico del Popolo ", 1978

 


 

The thirst 

It was a beautiful Summers' day. Msgr. Luciani arrived suddenly at the parochial house of Caviola (near Canale D'Agordo). He was going from Vittorio Veneto to Perarolo. " I passed over here to greet you," he said to don Cesare (one of his ex- students at the Gregorian of Belluno), "and to ask you for a glass of water." After having quickly relieved his thirst in the kitchen, he went away being thankful to me with so much love, as if I had offered him who knows what ".

from " Il Celentone "

 


 

" Itís a shame " 

"Itís a shame, you know, a shame that there are some parish Priests who do not teach Catechism. I have made a warning to more than one of my parish Priests. I will speak of my diocese. I am very happy with my parish Priests, letís understand, but some work reluctantly. There is one that, all throughout the year, has never been to give a lesson at the primary schools. How does he manage ? It is not possible ! To throw away the grace of God, the possibility of doing a little Catechism in the classrooms that have heating, where children are upright and attentive on their benches. Catechism is very important; it is poor of us, Priests, if we donít give the maximum importance to it. It is the best Homily. "

Albino Luciani

from " Il buon samaritano "

 


 

Days of distension

 

" Pietralba. From 1972 till 1977, we spent at least ten days in total distension between walking by the forests to where the flocks were, with a small annual appointment on the top of the Corno Bianco (m. 2,317), in the bear of San Romedio, and a tour through several neighboring towns, and the meeting at Novacella or Innsbruck and the Sanctuary of the Servants of Maria Waldrast, and some games of bowls, living our daily lives next to the hosts of the place, seated at the common table in the restaurant, playing with the boys, chatting with affability with the adults.

A very human holiday that revealed to all a dimension of spirituality and vast culture in a personage so at the top and so at hand of all ".

 

Msgr. Mario Senigaglia

from "La Sorgente", 1983

 


 

A wish 

 It was September 3rd, 1978, the day of the official beginning of his Pontificate. " While one was still before Peterís tomb, I augured the Pope with the liturgical expression : " May the Lord make you happy on this earth ". He answered me smiling: " Yes, happy outside, but, if you knew what I am feeling inside ".

Card. Pericle Felici

from " La Sorgente ", 1978

 


 

The smack 

Albino, at 10 years of age, was present at the solemn ceremonies as an altar-boy, and that really 'opened his eyes'. How great and solemn that church was (n.f.a. talks about that one of Agordo) comparing it with the small, quiet small church there at Canale ! Instead of following the ceremony with attention and devotion, his astonished and curious glances ran to all those beautiful things that there were to discover. One of the Priests' present, (who obviously did not understand that infantile stupor), was not pleased with this involuntary and still evident distraction and, immediately, he observed: " That boy is not in order ". As a Cardinal, he would have remembered the effect of that abrupt reproach and the smack to the altar-boys that had accompanied it: " But it was useful to me ".

Thirteen years after this episode, he would have returned to Agordo as a chaplain: " And I assure you that I have not given any smacks to the altar-boys. They were lively. Sometimes I did not know how to control them ".

Card. Albino Luciani

from his Homily of June 29th, 1978

(citation from " Una vita per la Chiesa " by Regina Kummer)

 


 

Posing 

Regarding the Pontiffís humility. Forced to pose for the official photographs, standing up and seated, he commented: " Here is Harlequin, the false prince ".

Card. Jacques Martin

ex- Prefect of the Pontifical House

from " Oltre il portone di bronzo "  

 


 

" They should have elected one more qualified than I, better than I "

 

" I cannot forget the successive day to his election, August 27th, 1978, in the afternoon. I was in the Bishopís palace of Belluno and I was about to go to Canale D'Agordo, Lucianiís native town, to celebrate the Mass of thanksgiving for the election to Extreme Pontificate of a son of our land. I call  the Vatican by telephone and finally located the secretary, don Diego Lorenzi; I asked him to ask the Pope if I can bring his blessing to Canale D'Agordo. Answer : " The Pope is in the chapel, he is praying ". I say : " If it is possible, let me know the answer within fifteen minutes, because I cannot make the faithful wait who are waiting for me ". About ten minutes passed. The telephone rang. It was don Diego who, as he was accustomed to doing in Venice, said : " I give you the Patriarch ", but immediately he corrected himself: " I give you the Holy Father ". It is surely him; he commenced like this : " The vixen changes hair but not defects ", He had changed his clothes, but not the habit of calling me by telephone. I whisper : " Holy Father, the joy of Belluno is uncontrollable; also the Cathedral bell clapper has fallen to the ground by force of ringing ". " But tonight I have not slept, I have had so many scruples. Why did they elect me ? They should have elected one more qualified than I, better than I. Pray for me ". I assured him that everybody prays for the new Pope, but that our peoples' prayer was very intensive and I asked him if I could take his blessing to Canale. " Yes, yes, to my brother, sister, relatives, to all. Pray for me ". At this point, I have a doubt: When I say : I bring them the Popeís blessing ", there will be someone who will think : " He is inventing, how has he made to get it ?". I told the Pope: " Holy Father, can I say that I have spoken with you by telephone ?". " Sure, say that I have phoned you ".

Could you imagine the joy of the  numerous faithful and journalists joined in Canale D'Agordoís church when I mentioned this conversation?"  

 

Msgr. Maffeo Ducoli

from ĎTracceí, 9/98

 


 

Gratefulness 

From a interview with Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider, ex- Archbishop of Fortaleza.  

- As you know, the unexpected death and some false news contained in the official version given by the Vatican fed disquieting suspicions. Then, about his death many things were written, it was also said about a ' moral homicide'. According to you, was there anything to legitimize such suspicions?

LORSCHEIDER: I am interested neither about the things that were written, nor about all the literature that bloomed around his death. Still, I say it with pain, the suspicion is in our heart; it is like a bitter shade, a question to which it wasnít given a total answer (...)

- Donít you think that today in the Church the figure of Pope Luciani has been forgotten ? 

LORSCHEIDER: Perhaps, in some environments, his memory is a little alive today. However,  it is not like that for the faithful. The simple people know how to recognize and find it difficult to forget those who show them love, with a good fatherís love. I remember that, after his election, when I was in Fortaleza, some university students came to see me. " Eminence ", they told me, " we have come to say thank you ". " Why ? ", I asked. "We have come to  thank you and all the Cardinals for giving  us a Pope like John Paul I ". " Do you like him a lot ? ", I asked. They answered me: " Yes, he knows how to speak to  peoples'  hearts ". I think his brief Pontificate was like a great breathing in the Church life. Like the dawn of a clear day... We have saudade (n.d.a. nostalgia), of that smile. I am convinced that one day, whether he wanted it or not, Pope Luciani will be raised to the honour of the altars.

 - And if now you were requested to suggest again the Petition of Beatification?

LORSCHEIDER: I would subscribe  it immediately, certainly. But we, as Brazilian Bishops, have already officially introduced it. It is not now from here that the initiative must start again. It is important now that a request in such a sense is promoted, for example, by the Bishops of the Triveneto. I want to speak about this; I will do it as soon as I return to Italy. I will speak about it with the Patriarch, Cardinal CŤ.

from " 30 Giorni ", 7-8/1998

 


 

With the worn-out shoes 

" I met, for the first time, Cardinal Luciani on August 1977 in the Seminary of Bressanone. On May 25th, I became a Bishop and, the day consecrated to Peter and Paul, I began to take part in the Cardinals College. Then, I spent a part of my holidays with my relatives in the old Episcopal see at the borders of the Isarco river, as I had done previously, some years ago. During his youth, Cardinal Luciani had often arrived with his mother to Pietralba, because he knew that region well. I donít know how he'd heard that the new Archbishop of Munich was in the Seminary of Bressanone; this  was how he came to visit me. This noble gesture made on me a deep impression but, still more than this, I felt impressed by the spontaneous cordiality and the great human goodness towards me that came from him. I still see him seated in front of me, dressed in his simple black cassock and the shoes rather worn out, to talk about his youth and to  completely open his heart to me. When, a year later, I saw him again in the Conclave, the thought came spontaneously to me that a man who had such  talents of heart and a mind illuminated by the heart, should be, of necessity, a good Pope, and I was glad that many others thought like me ".

Card. Joseph Ratzinger

Prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith

from " 30 Giorni ", 7-8/1998

 


Memories of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum, archbishop of Dakar.  

" The next Pope shouldnít be an Italian " 

" Itís for me a cause of great particular joy, on the occasion of such an anniversary, to evoke the memory that I have kept of Pope John Paul I, and  the friendly feeling with which he honoured me. The first encounter was in 1970. The Patriarch of Venice, knowing that I was passing through the Dolomite, invited me to spend the weekend at his house. We were in the second half of July. Our conversations  then were centred on the Church life in Europe and Africa, particularly, on the shortage of Priests in Western Europe and on its increase, however, in the African continent. We looked together for a way to put into practice the spiritual renovation proposed by II Vatican Council to favour the adjustment of the situation.

 In the course of the conversation, great was my surprise when listening to the venerated Patriarch of the Dogesí City as he came to express this desire : " I think that the next Pope shouldnít be an Italian ". I said nothing. He justified his affirmation like this : " That would give a later evidence to the universality of the Catholic Church ". " Are you the only one wishing that ?", I asked him.  "Many Italian Bishops, and those from other countries share my opinion,"  was his answer.  Thatís all about our first encounter, centred on one question;  it is necessary to recognize it, with all due respect."

 

A second visit to the Patriarchís home 

" The Providence granted me a second encounter in 1977, on the occasion of the Synod closing. The work in which we had both taken part was hardly finished, when he invited me to accompany him to Venice, where we were met by his diocesans gathered in St. Markís Basilica; very crowded. Then, he asked me to address them ,and I transmitted the Synod message to the crowd, constituted predominantly by young people. At the beginning, I rejected, knowing that a similar duty corresponded to the Patriarch and therefore I didnít want to disappoint the audience. However,  he convinced me and... there was no other way than to obey.

That time I amused myself at Cardinal Lucianiís home for five days. The stay became memorable by the Solemnity of All Saints that he asked me to celebrate in St. Markís Basilica. He asked me to visit his Seminary located at the shade of the majestic Santa Maria della Saluteís church. Successively, he asked me to accompany him to Treviso for a liturgical ceremony and, again, to Padova, to the house of the Bishop of that city, Monsignor Girolamo Bortignon, ex- preacher of the spiritual exercises in the Vatican and theologian of deep religious culture, who was then Vice-president of Triveneto regional Episcopal Conference. The Cardinal - President of this same Conference - had arrived at his house to entertain himself in things. I open a parenthesis here to say that these providential contacts explain, without a doubt, my deep attachment to this region of  Northern Italy (...)

 

A small ' trap ' to  better-see the future Pope 

 After Paul VI was called to God in August 1978,  began the arrangements for the Conclave to elect his successor. For myself, I had no  doubts that Cardinal Luciani would occupy Peters' throne very soon. To the numerous questions they asked me in Rome about who  would be Paul VIís successor, (before the opening of the Conclave), I  invariably answered: "Cardinal Luciani." I was convinced to such a point that - the episode is of public dominion -, at the eve of the entrance in the Conclave, I invited him to dine with me at the Pious Nuns Mothersí house in Alcide De Gasperi St., asking people in charge of the community to approach us at the moment of the coffee: thus, they would have seen with their own eyes the future Pope. In the presence of the Nuns and of his secretary, I told him clearly : " We are waiting for you, my Patriarch." He understood perfectly what I  wanted to insinuate and answered me: " It is not my matter."

Also before this episode, when I met Cardinal Luciani  (naturally, always outside the Conclave), I greeted him regularly with these words: " I greet my Patriarch," and he replied : " I am the Patriarch of Venice." We both knew what we meant ".

from " 30 Giorni", 7- 8/1998  

 


Two paragraphs from Cardinal Lucianiís last homily in the church of Agordo in 1978.

A chaplain with pockets always empty 

" Here, in uniform, he is a Mr., an emeritus gentleman. Then he was in IV class at the primary school. He accompanied me for the blessing of the houses, up at Rif. I donít know if they still do it. One was going to bless the houses and the owner, perhaps poor, gave them one, or two, eggs for the archdeacon. They were put in a basket. We had walked all Rif, we also made Piasent. Everybody was happy. An altar-boy was so happy that he slipped. He threw all the eggs onto the ground. If they had been for me it wouldn't have mattered, but they weren't for me. Then he began crying. No smacks. I had to take the handkerchief out and console him and dry his eyes.

It is not that I have only worked with these kids, but I also have had to help solve problems. So many times they broke the glasses, here over the sacristy, and they caused other damage. They were times of so much poverty. We took walks. Money, I didnít have. They also ate an icecream with pleasure, but I was always without money. I remember being a chaplain with my pockets always empty. Yet,  I remember those years with an affection that I canít tell you, among the most beautiful of my priesthood ".

 

Forced to play the organ 

" I had also good adult singers and also many  voices of children. Nevertheless, there was no organist. The archdeacon asked me :  

"Do you not know how to play?"

" No! I had tried but I hadn't finished learning."

He asked me :

"Why hadnít you finished ?"

" Look, I was told that I was not from the tribe of Manase."

He exorted me :

" But you must play it!"

They were those times in which Priests obeyed and I, by obedience, with a fatigue I donít tell you, I have tried. There were people who were listening to me : there were ladies, young ladies who played the piano and knew how to judge how the organ had sounded. In that way, I played for a  few months... Enough to exclaim after so many years : " Oh, if I had your hands ! ", I addressed in admiration to a seminarian who played the organ in St. Peterís church. " I  also tried to learn to play when younger, but my hands are hard ".

from " L'Amico del Popolo ", Sept 30th, 1978  

 


 

Learning Portuguese 

His preoccupation, then, was to be understand by all : also by the Brazilians who did not understand his Venetian Italian. For that reason, he had requested, in Venice, a month before the trip (n.f.a. travel to Brazil made on November 1975), of the Franciscan of Christ King Sisters to give him Portuguese lessons. They were sister Edith Onghero (Brazilian) and sister Valentina Kanton (Italian resident in Brazil).

  Now, the Nuns say that Cardinal Luciani amazed them with his simplicity and humility. They were also surprised at the speed with which he learned, adding that the Cardinal made much practice of the language when he was alone. " He wanted his words to be understood by all in Brazil ", they said.

from " Esquiķ ", Sept. 17th, 1978

 


Paragraphs from an interview with Edoardo Luciani.

" Perhaps I have been the cause of my little brothers' death " 

- Have you some memory of Albino child, that it has particularly remained engraved in your mind and reveals his personality?

" Perhaps this is totally unknown. You know that my mother lost her second son, Frederico, through bronchopneumonia, whe he was still a child. With the rigid atmosphere of winter up here, the worry we had was to prevent the cold air from entering the house. Naturally my mother always recommended us to close the door and the windows, so the little child did not take any cold and he did not become ill. I remember to have heard my brother Albino that in his early years he had suffered a lot, because of the fact that his sisters (of the first mother), Amalia and Pia, reproached him to have made their brother sick like that. He said to me that he often woke-up during the night and he thought: " Perhaps I have been the cause of my little brotherís death." It was the moral suffering that he remembered most." (...)

 

Journalist and writer, yes 

 - Do you remember that he has had as a young Priest some desire, some particular aspiration?

"It seemed to me that he intended to have time available in order to read, to study, to write. If he had intended to fulfill himself on the human plan, these were his personal likings. He would have been dedicated completely to literature: to read and to write."  

- Would have he truly become a journalist and a writer?

" Yes, seriously. He always said that to me. He  repeated it many times. " I would have made it without sacrifice, gladly ". The many other tasks,  he has solved well, with obvious fruits, too; he has faced them with remarkable hard work, much spirit of adaptation and obedience to the Will of God (...)  

" Now they will make your brother a Patriarch " 

- When he was nominated as a Bishop, what was your thought? Was it a surprise or was it in the order of the things?

" I was at home and I heard the telephone ringing. It was don Ausilio Da Rif, who announced to me: " I have great news to give you. They have made your brother a Bishop ". This did  not surprise me too much, to tell the truth. Considering the atmosphere, more or less it was discounted. I think that it had  surprised him."

 - And when he was nominated as Patriarch of Venice, were you waiting for that ?

" When Card. Urbani died, I remember meeting a colleague, a friend of mine who told me: " Now they will make your brother a Patriarch ". I answered: " I believe it, too ". The election as a Pope has not been strange for me at all." (...)

 

' He struck-up a friendship immediately ' 

- A slightly difficult question this, Mr. Edoardo. What did you think about the outbreak of joy at first and of sorrow later provoked by your brother as Pope? How did you remain? Which was the impression that humanity made to you that rejoiced at first and cried afterwards?

" My brother, in a certain sense, has been fortunate. Not because he became a Pope, but because he was very communicative. As soon as he arrived anywhere, he struck-up a friendship immediately. This was from the seminary onwards. It is  luck - I repeat - because many others that also are sacrificed and have  been good, many times they do not succeed. Instead my brother had this grace, perhaps a charisma. I  donít know. Also on the natural plan he was lucky. Having to come to contact with many people; it was enough that he introduced himself, and he struck-up a friendship immediately. I remember the first meeting with people from the Loggia of San Peter: it was possible to lookat them watching his lips, while they followed with enthusiasm what he said. Indeed, he had not even opened his mouth, when people applauded him. Also people religiously indifferent or atheist - I have several testimonies - remained enthusiastic. I confess it was not a surprise to me  - this enthusiasm at a world-wide level, regarding my brother, because on another plan this had happened everywhere, in the previous years."

Antonio Ugenti

  from " The gift of the clarity "

 

 


 

Home - Anecdotes and Testimonies - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI - Part VII - Part VIII - Part IX - Part X - Part XI - Part XII - Part XIII - Part XIV - Part XV

 

 

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