Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani


Part IV







- From "Humilitas"  1990 - 1991



- Memories from pilgrims who took part of John Paul Iís funeral -


The new glasses look nice to him


" I have a factory of glasses in Cadore. Since when I have met Card. Luciani I became very attached to him. I used to go and meet him in Venice every time I had the occasion. I have seen that he has an old fashioned pair of glasses and then I have given him another one more modern. When I have met him again, after some days, he told me : " Do you know that I can see better ? And I was told that they look nice to me ! "

Today I am going to the funeral with the mind full of emotion and also with a little of pride thinking that the glasses that he still has on the eyes are mine! "



The announcement of the nomination as a Bishop between jokes


" Many years ago, one day while I was in Curia to talk with don Albino, then Pro-vicar, the telephone rang, he answered and made a signal to me so that I didnít move. With the usual calm, he exchanged some jokes with a distant interlocutor and then hang up and continued the speech with me as if nothing had happened. After some weeks, I see him again, already Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, and he told me: " Do you remember that day when you were in the Curia? That telephone call announced me the nomination as Bishop of Vittorio Veneto ". This confidence has given me a measure of his deep serenity. The nomination as a Bishop had not minimally affected him, he was a lot far away from whichever search or desire of career! ".



Much suffering in Venice !


" The pastoral visit to the diocese, without bureaucratic fetters, he carried it with much humanity and sweetness. A part of the young clergy, in the ' illusion of false mirages, trapped in incautious readings, were going along dangerous paths, putting in argument the same Priesthood : the higher index of the sacerdotal defections of the century, fifteen approximately, happened during his government. How much he cried bitterly and prayed ! And how many fasts of expiation, considering responsible himself before the Lord, incapable of keeping Priests to whom he loved. A minority of the clergy contested the pastoral action that, as they said, put a brake to the Counciliar renewal too much. And when on October 1973 (in March he had been created as a Cardinal), it was underwritten a letter to the Holy See in order to ask the Patriarchís resignation. Luciani, also knowing the signers, did not want to punish them. Indeed, some of them were promoted as parish Priests and he personally accompanied them in parish, as a way of great esteem ".


Msgr. Antonio Niero



Letter to Pope Luciani



Dear Pope Luciani,


Allow that one of yours many " parish faithful ", there are so many in your parish, hundred of million, sends her letter to you, as you used to do with the authors of your preferred readings, with your saints,   your teachers of faith, of hope, of charity, with your dear Pinocchio, your St. Bernardino of Siena, from which you had learned your way of speaking "clear, clear ", with the children in order to reach the elder ones.

" Yesterday "... you began to say like that, speaking from the loggia of Saint Peter in first singular person, unusual, revolutionary, never heard before in the history of the Church and the Papacy, and immediately you liked me, immediately I loved you. A strange shake ran for my veins, a warm wave of love that made me pour tears, that became wet my eyes.

Those your gestures, that your impertinent forelock, of child from mild and good air, that your opening your arms, nearly embracing it, towards the crowd below exultant, amazed and attracted by your simplicity, your familiar " parochial " talking and by your baptismal candor, that your putting right the skullcap that it slipped from your hairs, that your smile irradiating warm and confidence, eloquent sign of serenity of spirit, a complete and total abandonment in the arms of the divine Will, made me exclaim, enthusiastic and fascinated : " The Saint Spirit hit the target, has put down Himself on the right man at the right moment! "...

We needed familiarity, a father that were one of us, humble and good shepherd, that made " a parish " of the immense Church, of the strict, icy embracing of the Berniniís columns, a porch of a parish where all the pilgrims, the Roman and not, believers or not, all the thirsty, coming from the four angles of the earth, felt like a home, like in front of a domestic fire listening to the common father that speaks, that tells, that talks, that dialogue, that smiles, that teaches, that advises, that makes catechism, free of earthly authority, humble, " low ", little, not dimmed by the political power, by the pomp, by the boastfulness.

You have renounced to the medieval coronation, sign of the power that was not neither of Christ nor of Peter, to the enthronement, the signs and the symbols of the monarchy, even if most ancient, the most venerable, the most bloodless, you have renounced to the gestatorial chair, the pump of the centuries, remembering that Peter was a poor rustic, knotted fisherman of Galilea, also when he came to Rome to become Vicar of Christ.

You sure remembered, then, of your father, poor emigrating for lands of Europe, to the search of a sure bread and of a continuous job and, above all, of your mother, " my mother "... you said frequently in yours dialogues as a Pope, who had brought you up in humility, occultation and poverty.

What a days those after the beginning of your pastoral mission, your " service ", your evangelization !

I waited for the Wednesdays of the Nervi Room and the Sundays appointments in St. Peterís Square to listen to you, in order to pray with you the Angelus, as days of love appointment. I was thirsty of your word, new, sincere, open word, fraternal, that reached to everybody and makes happy, fills with enthusiasm, reassured to everybody. They were words, signs, gestures, signals, native , natural, that came out from the father heart, the anxiety to carry all to Christ, to give to the simple persons the truth of the faith, of giving one hand to the poor, the non-learned, the excluded, the handicapped, the young people, the children, the sick.

 With you and for you, men, women, the humble returned to smile. You had relit on them, on all of us, the great lamps of Pope John : faith, hope, charity.

And I read, eagerly I searched and I read your writings in order to know you better, to read on them what you were, what you thought, what you meditated. And they were a revelation, a light, a flare for my spirit. First of all, " Catechism in crumbs " and " Illustrissimi " gave me the key of my love for you.

Priest, Vicar, Bishop, Patriarch, Cardinal, Pope you have always aimed to make the Catechism, to be catechist, as two thousand years ago Christ on the roads of Palestine, to give the supreme truth of the faith with evangelic simplicity, telling parables, anecdotes, life meeting, because your word, word of Christ, put deep roots in who is listening to you and is reading you.

We liked your cantilenant veneta cadence that made more pleasant, more captivating, the more familiar, more delightful yours invites to start the school of the Gospel and the Catechism, with a renewed heart and spirit since your pentecostal appearance, in order to progress, step by step, cliff after cliff, pause after pause, towards Love.

During 33 days, with the word, the gestures, with the smile, in the intimate of your studio, in the silence of your prayer - " I must take a little of silence for my spirit; I detach from you to join my God " -, in the offering of your Mass and in front of the crowds, speaking, gesturing, calling, smiling, you have not done other thing than to conjugate in any case and in all the times, the verb TO LOVE.

But it was a joy of short duration. Expiring at the 33rd day, after having prayed in a breath your joyful, painful and glorious mysteries, silently you has gone, alone, humbly, in the same way as you have appeared to us, giving us, once again, a burning evangelic and catechistic lesson, of silence and humility. You detached from us to join your God, you took the eternal silence.

Your death have been for us a synthesis of your priestly and pastoral life, your only and last encyclical, that one we will read with the heart, often, first of all, when the regret will attacks us, when the doubt will torment us, when the news of life and the dirty of the spirit will be about to surpass us ".


 Michele Grieco

"Il campanile"

Cava de' Tirreni

September 1979


 The Pope, altar boy of his secretary

  " On him, I had a spiritual teacher and I enjoyed a lot this intimate relationship with the Vicar of Christ. On Sunday evening, once for two hours and a half, in its private studio, the Pope spoke to me for a long time. He told me about his years in Vittorio Veneto as a Bishop and about Venice as Patriarch. He told me he liked to get in direct touch with people and how he was already missing that pastoral life among the people; the accidental meetings on the ferries, visits in parishes.

 Then, unexpectedly, he asked : " You, could you make me a favor tomorrow morning ?". I answered : " Sure, Holiness, whichever thing you wants ". " Then ", he continued, " Could you celebrate the Holy Mass for me tomorrow morning ?" I replied: " Holiness, I have already celebrated the Holy Mass for you many times and I am sure I will make it tomorrow morning ".

  Immediately, the Holy Father took part saying: " No, I do not mean this. I want you celebrate the Holy Mass allowing me to become your altar boy". I was astonished about the humility of this Pope. He insisted and so the morning after I celebrated the Holy Mass in the private chapel at 6,30AM. I remeber that we were there since 5.30AM in order to pray. At about 6.25AM, then he turned towards me and he indicated me to go and get ready for Mass. Then, while I was passing, he told me: " In English ". He also had the breviary in English, the same one that I had, bought in Dublin, Ireland. He also made the readings in English language, perfectly. So, at 6.30AM, I began celebrating the Mass and the Holy Father was the altar boy. He made all; he served the wine and the water, all like an altar boy - and all in English because he told me to celebrate in that language. After that time, the Holy Father has made me celebrate the Holy Mass me twice more. Last time was on Tuesday morning during the week of his death. At the end of that Mass, I remember well that he also knelt down for the blessing. It was a little difficult to me but I became accustomed to this so humble man, the Vicar of Christ. At the end of the Mass, he told me : " Thanks ". And I have said : " It is me who has to say thanks to you". "No, no, thanks because when I assist to your Mass I know I am assisting the person of Christ".



Knowledge of languages


" I remember that, when he was elected, it was said: " What a pity  that the Pope can only speak the Italian language". Instead, he spoke Italian, English, French and German. And, during the first audience, he did not have the courage of speaking in another languages but only in Italian. During the second audience, I have discovered that he was able to speak in English, because there were a group of American Bishops who made a course in Rome and they had to be received in audience. The Pope has said: " They will not understand anything of the Italian language, so I must make the speech in Latin language ". I have said : " Holiness, they also will understand Latin language ! But, you can make it in English language ". " But, no ". " Yes, yes, Holiness ". Then, we have made the practice four times. He has read for me and it was perfect. With surprise of all, he made a long speech in English language. And so, the following general audience I have encouraged him to make the reassumed of his speech in English, French and German language. And then, in Spanish, because he was able to do it ".


" He will come because I am leaving"






" God has wanted to give a true Father as the guide of the Church, for a short period of time, which, according to me, he knew well that his Pontificate would have been short but intense : a Father who has known how to collect around himself the sympathy of all men of good will; a Father who has intentions of taking the names of his immediate predecessors in order to emphasize his fidelity to the instruction of Council Vatican II and to the great traditions of the Church; a Father who has wanted to add to the names that he had assumed " the First " adjective, because he said: " I am John Paul the First because the Second comes soon ". In fact, two evenings before his death, during supper, Pope Luciani, speaking about the Conclave that had elected to the Peterís See, in his humility, said that there were many other Cardinals better than him who could be elected and added: " there was just in front of me who Pope Paul VI had already indicated. But he will come because I am leaving". I tried to change speech and so I did not ask who was who was seated in front of him.

 Only four years after, when I have received the nomination as Master of the Papal Ceremonies by Pope Lucianiís sucessor, the current Pope, I was at the first meeting with all the Papal Ceremonial assistants. During the conversation with them I asked, between those who were within the Conclave, who was seated in front of Cardinal Luciani in the first Conclave and they have confirmed me it was Cardinal Wojtyla ".

Msgr. John Magee

 No purple, no skullcap

 " In all the not little times in which I visited him in Vittorio Veneto and Venice, I donít remember (beyond a single exception) of having seen on him any sign of color, over his simple black cassock; something that indicates that he was a Bishop and also a Cardinal; even the skullcap was not visible, because, as it is known, he nearly never wore it at home. This behavior, very natural in him since always, was one of the many ways of his modesty and humility. But, one day, it happened I was received in Venice, that this his habit, now become familiar, hit me particularly. I had the necessity to be introduced, in some way, to a personality of Venice for a personal matter. When he has received me he was alone, because his secretary was absent. He was as considerate and affable as ever and he began searching for the telephone directory to announce me in person to whom I wished to meet. I observed that humble figure of a simple priest (because nothing more than a simple priest would be appeared to whom, not knowing him, had been there) who moved himself through the rooms of the Patriarchal See in an attitude of service to the visitor, instantaneously it came to my memory those very different figures of Cardinals from not very far away times, majestically covered by purple. Nevertheless, he was a Cardinal, too... and a future Pope ".

Antonio Battocchio



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