Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani

 

Part VIII

 

 

 

 

 


 

- From "Humilitas"  1998 - 1999

 

 

Christmas

 

" Luciani also lived Christmas in the memory of his family and his childhood. In the Bishop’s Palace, he wished to celebrate the Christmas Novena in which he punctually took part.

He addressed a reflection and an invitation to formulate a life intention to the assistants :  Nuns and the secretary. Some nights, before going to his room, he also came to glance to see how the work  on the small manger was progressing. This manger was placed in the private chapel.

In those days, at supper, he abstained from fruit, and wine, and he asked to have as supper what he had had for lunch.

Once, at Christmas, a Priest was host in the House of Exercises of Vittorio Veneto. After the pontifical in the Cathedral, Luciani invited him :

- "Come today to have lunch with me, it’s Christmas; I am alone because I wanted my secretary to see his parents, whilst it is possible. I have some remorse because I haven’t gone often enough to visit my parents, especially  my mother, who requested  me with insistence.

Don Francesco Taffarel  


  From the miserable entrance in Venice to the glorying funerals in Vatican

  " When Patriarch Luciani, in the now distant February 8th, 1970, made his entry in Venice, how many of us remembered April ' 49 or March ' 59 in that Venice had welcomed its last three Patriarchs, we could appreciate the big difference. Glorying those ones by flow of people, of impressive and distinction form, sun splendor; miserable, however, and grey (until the weather was tedious) this  new Patriarch, in accordance with the new line imposed by the diocesan new innovating forces of post ‘68.  

I remember that, entering the St. Mark’s Basilica, a colleague-friend, who was called Luciani’s estimator, rather mortified by the excessive simplicity of that welcome, told me: " You will see what a triumph his funer will be ! ". Words that have returned to my mind in these days in the splendor of the Vatican Basilica where, through mass media, we could say that everybody was joined ".  

 

Msgr. Giuliano Bertoli

Patriarchal Seminary of Venice former Director

 


Pope John knows how to convince..., however, Don Albino not !

" Our Don Albino! It was in that way the faithful of the Vittoriese church called him. A simple, humble man and with a great spirit of poverty. " I had told Pope John he could think of anyone else, not of me,"  he confided to Giacomo Peterle. "In due course, I was nominated as a Bishop. I said immediately that it did not seem to me to be apt and that, anyway, I’d remain in Belluno with pleasure doing my work. After two orders and two rejections, I was invited to Rome.

Pope John spoke to me personally requesting me to accept. Not having other arguments to resist to that holy man’s requests, I told him : Holiness, I am not fine ... I have some difficulty when breathing - Then, we are well - said Pope Roncalli, as the only answer... we are fine because I am sending you to Vittorio Veneto, on the hill, in the castle... if you knew what a good air it is there ! I know because, from Venice, I have gone there several times. You will certainly be well . To which I did not know what else to answer or to observe. And, I am here. The Pope was right : it is a good climate, also a beautiful place ! People are also good ". 

 

A Bishop running in 

" Besides his humility, he was particularly sensible towards another value : poverty. When he arrived to Vittorio Veneto, Luciani brought with him only his clothes and the library. he hadn’t the television that he had only accepted as a gift to be able to follow the peregrination of Paul VI in the Holy Land,"wrote Don Arrigo Gobbo, his former secretary, who died some years ago. "The meals were of an extreme frugality and I don’t remember him ever taking a holiday. The money he received, he used to help the poor and even a few priests in difficulties."

 "But, is he a Bishop, indeed ?, - the diocese of St. Tiziano’ faithful wondered – Perhaps, he is still running in ! "

Albino Luciani was of thin and fragile contexture. The voice was weak. The behavior, humble. Often he hid the Episcopal signs, when he went to visit the sick in the rest houses or when he entered a pub to have some "ombra " (in Venetian dialect : wine) with a Priest.

But, while passing the months and the years, the faithful changed their opinion quickly. The tenuous and fragile tone of his voice finished infusing security to whom listened to him ".

Nicola Scopellitti  


Don Albino " security guard "

Memories of Don Alfieri De Lorenzo, Priest of pure Cadorian blood who has a great memory of Don Albino Luciani as Prefect and Vice-director of the Seminary of Belluno. Don Alfieri showed me a small annotator,  with plenty of names and numbers, which contains the exact cassocks sizes that her mother Amelia made, as famous milliner, for several priests, among them, Luciani. It was convenient for him to have this milliner who lived near the Seminary, in the old shops, at St. Peters'. And, from the annotator, it is that she was three times to make him a cassock or an overcoat. And the milliner wrote down : height 140, shoulders 21, small thorax..." and about this she was worried, like a mother, of Don Albino’s health ", adds Don Alfieri.  

 

But there was an episode that saddened Amelia. She went to the Seminary to take the new clothes to a seminarians and Vice-director Luciani stopped her at the entrance and he wanted to look in her bag. A non-habitual and suspicious gesture ! " How is it possible? ", Don Alfieri asked the Vice-director. And, innocently, he replied: " I am sorry about this curiosity, but I had to obey the Director who thought that the mother also took to the Seminary some prohibited newspaper ".   In those times, the seminarians even couldn’t read " Il Gazzettino " or " L’Amico del Popolo ", fearing that they were distracted during the study and the practices of piety. Thus, the gesture of Luciani was explained and the Directors' suspicion had been clarified and dissolved ".

 

 

The quick trip to the bar at the Vice-director ‘s back 

" Don Alfieri remembers Luciani with pleasure more as a Prefect than as a Vice-director. Why? " He was one of us, he lived with us, he studied with us, he went for a walk with us... And it was beautiful and interesting to talk with him, who knew about everything ".

I also remember with pleasure the strolls, guided by Luciani, towards Limana, Castion, Salce... " He always went in front of the group, rapt in the conversation, with both neighbors and he went ahead, without never turning round ... to watch if we went in some bar, or smoked some cigarettes ".

Don Alfieri maintains that Luciani was a ‘top’ man : faithful to the rules, but also free. He was exigent, but also comprehensive, human, near of their personal problems".

Cesare Vazza  


" Patriarch, what a joke have you played to us? "

  " He laughed of taste, Albino Luciani, while we, of the Seminary theater company, performed always the same intrigues and always different of Carlo Goldoni’s comedies. I had been promoted as an actor that year after a brief period of training in Direction and, the clothes of Mr. Maurizio, one of Risteghis, were narrow for me - literally, because the old dresses for the performance were of smaller size than mine -. And the Patriarch laughed of taste, even though  when the comedy finished, we invited him to pose for the usual photo-memory that I have in my hands. He offered himself with pleasure and he put in the middle of us, actors of an extravagant company in which, by necessity, the men played the part of the women.

I read the date of the photo: February 1978. I return twenty years, to that tormented and extraordinary 1978, the year of Aldo Moro’s kidnapping and of Paul VI’s sad call to the Red Brigades men, the year of his election to the Pontifical throne.

Twenty years, and it seems to be yesterday, like the afternoon of that August 26th , when the ‘fumata’ was transmitted in direct from St. Peter’s Square. Was it white, was it black? It was not understood. I had to leave for a commitment but, at the end, I was attached to the video and it was the greater joy than until then I had never tried. " Eminentissimum ac reverendissimun Dominum, Albinum..., pronounced smiling Cardinal Felici. It was him, It seemed impossible to me. Patriarch, what a joke have you played to us! " Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Luciani ". Yes, there was no doubt, it was him, indeed.

  Our Bishop. That one who, meeting me, said with his disarming smile: " I am ashamed. Near you, I Patriarch, so little and you, seminarian, so big". That one to whom, when during the celebrations at St. Mark, we told him, putting the mitre on his head: " One moment, Eminence, it is twisted ", he answered kindly : " It is not the mitre that is twisted, it’s my head that is badly made". I ran to the church and I held onto the bells, that then were made of cord, and we made them ring, ring who knows for how long ".

Don Sandro Vigani  


Excuses for the purple  

" Last time I met him personally was in Venice, on Holy Monday 1978. He welcomed me, together with two friends, in his study. He was dressed in red-purple and I apologized " Have patience ! They are waiting for me in half an hour in St. Marks' for a meeting with the boys of the city. You know ? They like to see the Patriarch dressed in red. I’m sorry". He asked the secretary to bring him a black overcoat and, while he was putting it on, he repeated: " I really apologize ... "

Mario Carlin


Memories from a seminary mate, Erminio Scola.

  A punished poet

  "In the seminary, Luciani was a lively boy; he was strong in Italian and in History, while I was strong in Mathematics ", tells Erminio. Luciani also received a punishment from the teacher Troian, during a History lesson, because he was distracted. He wrote poetry on a sheet of paper ... Troian told him off, he ordered him to give the paper to him and he punished him : " You will stand still for one hour". Luciani obeyed calm, smiling".  

 

 

"You are right"

" After the minor Seminary, both friends went to the Seminary of Belluno. A lively discussion with Luciani during a stroll: " We spoke about Popes of the past and I expressed a hard, negative judgment about a Pope. Luciani became infuriated and said : You are wrong, this man was a great Pope... But I, stubborn, reaffirmed my negative judgment. Luciani, then, suddenly, blocked the discussion and told me : ‘You are right !’ Returned to the seminary, I consulted the History book and I saw that he was ‘right’, while I absolutely was wrong ... Here I have seen the goodness and the humility of Luciani ", concludes Erminio.

   

Snores at night 

" I envied Luciani because, in spite of the cold of the rooms, he also managed to fall asleep immediately and snored ! While I began sleeping after midnight. One day, I asked him : How can you manage to sleep with this cold ? Luciani  understood me immediately and he gave me his blanket. What a great pleasure ! Finally I also could sleep well ".

Cesare Vazza


A non-common blood to save a life

" In November, 1938, when I was nearly sixteen years old, I was sent to Belluno Hospital, suffering from an incurable illness. I was operated on, but after some days, during the medication, the femoral artery was broken and  hemorrhages began appearing; blood transfusions were necessary, and help was requested from people in my town. Boys and girls arrived from my town but , sometimes, the sanguineous group was rather unusual. One night inthe first week of December, I was affected by a strong hemorrhage. In the morning, I had fainted and they again requested help from the people of my town. They found four boys ; they were taken for a blood test, but none of them could help me. It didn’t go well for my group and they went away. I entered into a coma. In the evening, don Albino Luciani came, he had left  the Seminary to visit me; he found me in agony; he was told everything that had happened: I needed blood; he offered himself. They tested his blood and it was all right for my group. I  received his transfusion while I was in coma and knew nothing of what had happened until the following day. In the morning, I woke up and the nurse told me : ‘Don Albino came and he has given blood to you, but you were sleeping’. Some days passed; December 13th. arrived . Don Albino appeared in the evening; I hardly recognized him; I had the highest fever, and  had an ice bag on my head. He asked me how I was; soon he told me : ‘I have  returned to give you a little blood, and he greeted me and went away. The following day, the fever had disappeared and his blood remained in me; it did not flow from the wound any more and it has remained for ever. Since then, I take it with me. The miracle had happened; I believe in this miracle as I believe in God, I believe in his holiness as a man of charity, as a man of love. With his example, he taught us how it is possible to  love, how it is possible to serve. We must remember !

Pope Luciani, not only as a Pope, but as a man equipped with his virtues because that patrimony of lessons that he has left us remains with us. In February ' 98, I wrote a letter to the Pope giving my testimony of what had happened 60 years ago, requesting the Beatification and the nomination as Patron of blood donors. Luciani Pope was  one of the first blood donors from my town ".

Achille Fontanive


" Think about what mum would say if she were here "

  Fragments from the interview to Antonia Luciani, the Pope’s sister.

  - What do you remember of your meeting after the election ?

" My mother, when she was young, in Venice, had met Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, future Pius X. To us, children, she told us: " I think, I have seen the man who became a Pope ". That September 2nd, 1978, when John Paul I had received me in audience, I  told him: " Think about what mum would say if she were here". He hold my face between his hands and he embraced me ".

 

 

 

 

- What has the Pope told you ?  

" He tried to calm me and my brother Edoardo. The Lord will help us because I have not done anything at all to arrive  here. So, I am calm and you be calm, too ". Then, he confided to us that his first thought after the election had been to take the name of Pius XIII. But he immediately had changed his mind thinking about the sectors of the Church which had manipulated this option ".

 

 - The one of August 26th has been a flashing Conclave. According to you, Cardinal Luciani had expected to be elected ?

" While he was in Rome, awaiting the Conclave, he sent me a letter. " These are moments of serious responsibility ", he wrote, " even though there is no danger for me, in spite of  newspapers talkativeness". When I saw on TV the entrance of the Cardinals in the Sistine, it seemed to me that the TV-camera stopped a little more in his face : he was worried. I do not exclude the fact the he expected something ".

 

  - Then, the announcement of the election ...

  " When I heard Cardinal Felici’s voice to pronounce the name " Albinum " I knelt and exclaimed : " Poor Albino "

 

- A little strange reaction. Wasn’t you happy of becoming the Pope’s sister ?

" It knew that for him it was an enormous weight. During the last months, he continued saying : " Paul VI, poor Pope ".  

 

- In the last months it has been spoken of a miracle that was attributed to your brother’s intercession. Have you received informations of this type?

" I have received many and I continue receiving them. So many people say they have received graces from praying to my brother ".  

 

 - What do you think about a possible Beatification Process ?

  " I think that he, Albino, wouldn’t want it. I believe he is in Paradise, he is a Saint. But he wouldn’t like to be put in the altars ".  

 

Andrea Tornielli

from " Il Giornale "

September 28th, 1999

 

 


 

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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