Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani


Part V







- From "Humilitas"  1992 - 1993




Don Albino and the war


 Some testimonies from the Pope’s sister.

 "Our family was engaged a lot in the resistance. We have never been fascist. My brother, Edoardo, after September 8, 1943, had constituted one brigade of Catholic partisans. They acted underground. I made the link between them and Belluno; like some kind of courier. Albino gave advice on what way they had to move. What had to make, precious information. He was involved a lot. If fact, it wove the threads of the Catholic resistance in our zone ". To the question about if it was true that a Fascist’s life was saved by him, who was ready to be executed by the red partisans, she answered: " Yes, it is true. It was the teacher who had prepared him for the Institute. He was not a true Fascist; but, for reasons of good living, he was very compromised with the Fascist organizations. At night, the communist partisans came and they captured him. The day after, easrly in the morning, we heard someone knocking at the door. My mother opened it to find a woman kneeling. It was the teacher’s wife. She implored : " Make  Albino come to the town, I pray you, he only he can save my husband ". Mother informed soon my brother in Belluno, and he did not hesitate to come ". - But, what could he do ? " He had a communist cousin, between the partisans. He went to see him. This cousin, at first, said he knew nothing  about that story. " I am not involved with that ", he said. Albino insisted. He told him : " Look, I know, I know you are responsible; I will not return to Belluno until you release the teacher ". Then Albino came back home. The hours passed and the anxiety increased. In the evening, mother asked Albino to return to the cousin, in order to see if there was news. He did it. From the town a courier had left to go to the communist partisans. At dawn, the day after, the teacher could embrace his wife. What times ! How many persons were killed for political hatreds, in those years ".    


Buttons like Cardinal’s hats


Referring to the nomination as Bishop, the Pope’s sister tells: " I could not go to Rome for the ceremony because my husband was sick. I remember, some month before, I had been at my brother’s home in Belluno and the newspapers already vociferated his probable nomination: " We hope that it does not happen ", he said to me. And then, joking with me as he often did : " But you maybe would be glad of becoming the bishop’s sister ! ". " Albino, bishop or not, you remain my brother ", I replied to him while laughing. He often joked on these aspects referred to the ecclesiastical life. Once, when I was a child, 12 or 13 years, he had become priest since a little time, I was sewing a sweater and I observed that the buttons looked like Cardinal’s hats. " Hey, my dear, you cannot cultivate these hopes ! Perhaps I can ... ". He was a joker. I was always happy when Albino came home for a while ! It was possible to laugh with him ".


" We will go when they will make him a Pope "

" I remember when for his creation as a Cardinal I did not go to Rome. My brother Albino had nearly not told anyone and he did not have  any staff  organised to accompany him; Edoardo had told me that even he would have gone. Then, on television, I saw him and many others; at the last moment, they had gone to Rome. I felt a little  bad : my relatives comforted me: " OK, it means that we will go when they will make him a Pope! ". Then I expressed my sorrow to Albino, and he, from then on, always invited us to  pass the day of Christmas and Passover with him, in Patriarchy. From 1970 we always did it ".


" Very little and very talkative"

 From the Cardinal’s travel to Fatima.

" He said to me that sister Lucy was " very little and very talkative ". And it happened many times that, speaking with the relatives of this fact, Albino became serious, like hit from a serious thought. We had never seen him worried like that before. The same worry troubled him the evening on August 5, 1978, on the eve of Paul VI’s death. He was with my daughter, Lina, who talked to him about a friend’s death and he, with a gravity of unusual expression, said to her : " We must always be ready, because death can come anytime ". It was like if he wanted to drive away a thought. But, to all these things, we did not attend ourselves. Afterwards, we did! ".


He ceded the escort 

As far as what would his brother have done as a Pope, she answered: " What he had done all his life: the Priest, especially prayer and Catechism. I think that he would have provoked something in the Church. You know, my brother was a simple person, not a simpleton. In Venice this simplicity had made many people  cross, because they did not like the fact that he spoke in a simple and humble  way, that he  walked through the city dressed in a cassock, that he did not want the official escort. The escort, he often ceded it ".  

 Antonia Luciani  



Is it allowed to smoke ?


" Man full of spirit, who had read and remembered in an extraordinary way, capable of humour in the hardly successive hour to his election: a Spanish Cardinal having asked him the permission to smoke at the table : " Yes - he answered - but... white ‘fumata’ !"



The crosier... a support when he doesn’t know where to hold the hands


August 28th, 1978, 6.00PM. "A new meeting between the Pontiff and Msgr. Noč in sight of the Sunday ceremony. No gestatorial chair! (" when I will be old! "). No attendance to his daily Mass beyond the Nuns and his secretary, don Diego, with whom he concelebrates. Why  make the two domestic servants wake up so early (Gusso’s brothers)? They have a family! Regarding the use of the crosier or at least the Cross that Paul VI wore in public, contrarily to the ancient use (the Pope does not have the crosier): he sees a means in order to have a support (like Pope John with his hat) when he doesn’t know where to hold the hands. Noč answers that he is favorable. I answer that I am contrary: " Here I am like the ass of Budidano ". Then he finishes to accept it. 

He is not charmed by the popular applause. He remembers similar acclaim received by Pius IX in 1846 : " and then Crosses have come ! For me, the first ones have already come !”.

Card. Jacques Martin    

The vociferous boys 

" He has the art of making everybody feel comfortable at his own house, removing every kind of obstacle. If the confidence with God were the hinge of his thoughts and of his actions, the kindness  towards others reflected as on a mirror, the same Jesus, mild and humble of heart. The sympathy for the little ones, the humble, the poor, came spontaneously from him, up to the point to make himpay a courtesy visit to the new Prefect of Venice, in order to receive a team of vociferous boys whocame to meet him in patriarchy : I was present and responsible for that unexpected eruption".



A kind reproach ...


" Some time ago, I  met a very kind old man in Venice who,while he was getting up to the ‘vaporetto’ (Venetian motorboat-bus), recognized me and immediately talked to me about Patriarch Luciani. At the time of his service as a door-keeper, he came to know about a small incident that was referred to one of the best nuns of Maria Child who worked in the patriarchy. During  lunch time, a parish Priest was looking for the patriarch by telephone; the Nun convinced the Priest to call again later, because she thought that the Patriarch had a particular need of a moment of calm. When in the afternoon he knew about that telephone call, Card. Luciani looked for the Nun and, with a kind frankness, he dissuaded her from similar initiatives, because - he said - if a parish Priest is looking for the Patriarch at lunch time, it means that the thing is urgent... and that it doesn’t happen again ! He got in and got out as a host - said the former door-keeper - and, apologizing for the disturbance, he asked every time for my family and my little grand-daughter Paola... A Holy man! "  

don Licio Boldrin


Charity and authority


" In order to attest at the binomial, charity and authority, in the action of Albino Luciani, Msgr. Scalzotto has revealed an unknown episode when he had been Bishop of Vittorio Veneto : a alluvium had forced several faithful to get  shelter in the parish to spend the night, which had not been much appreciated by the parish Priest. Informed of the fact by the mayor, Msgr. Luciani, not only ordered that the faithful could remain in the parish, but the day after, at 5.30 in the morning, visited them in incognito. At the same time, he delivered to the parish Priest a message written in which he notifies : " Remember here the parish Priest is me. Consider yourself exonerated". The thing, in fact, happened punctually ".  

Msgr. Tiziano Scalzotto



  Venice is dangerous


" On April 17th, 1978, Card. Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, in quality of President of the Bishops of the Triveneto, presides the obsequies liturgy for S.E. Msgr. Vittorio De Zanche’s funeral, former Bishop of Concordia - Pordenone. At the end of the sacred liturgy, in which several Cardinals, participated,  some thirty  Bishops and more than 400 Priests had taken part, I was accidentally close to His Em. Card. Luciani. In the sacristy, I help the celebrating Cardinal to put on the sacred pontifical vestments. At the end, I put on him the overcoat, the hat. Putting on such personal effects, I said with determined and sincere tone : " Monsignor, Eminence... look : Venice is dangerous". "Why ?", he asked me. " Because - I added - you will become the third Pope of Venice; after Cardinals Sarto and Roncalli, you will become the third Pope of Venice; yes, the third Pope ". It is clear that, not having any familiarity with Card. Luciani, because neither I have spoken to him, nor I have ever met before then, mine did not want to be absolutely a joke.

Moreover, the same circumstance of the funeral of a Bishop friend made every expression still more inopportune than it seemed to have only the shadow of a joke. Mine was a conviction that came out  from the depth of my heart and of my spirit: nearly one internal inspiration.

When that afternoon of August 26th, 4 months later, the white smoke from the chimney of the Sixtine Chapel announced to the world the election of the new Pontiff, I nearly shouted with joy within  me: " Now I am running to ring the bells for the new Pope. It will be Card. Luciani; and his name will be Paul or John". The difference is only apparent : his name will be John Paul ".  

don Matteo Passut



Crosses exchange

Memories from one of his teachers, don Giulio Gaio.

 " With clear memory and extraordinary property of language he spoke about that " bocia " (boy) who wrote topics of ten or twelve pages giving him additional hard work as a teacher. " He was the first one of the class, a cannon, but I had never noticed in him any feeling of superiority over his companions". The relationships between teacher and pupil had not been interrupted due to the seminary. Don Giulio defined them " cordial, spontaneous, in order not to say, friendly. Which did not prevent them - they are always his words - from also having discussions, especially on some points of view about political and ecclesial matters, but which, never disturbed  true friendship relationships ". During an interview in 1986, he had told us: " I have sent don Albino my best wishes on his election  to Vittorio Veneto and I have also assured him of my prayer to the Holy Spirit because He could help him to carry that cross that had fallen on him, - I have added in my letter, by way of a joke, also in repair to that one to which he condemned me when he was in IV and V gymnasium with his topics that never ended! ".  



" Today I have made a Priest happy, but I have unpleased at least ten, who then will not be much " benevolent " regarding me", Luciani exclaimed at lunch, after having signed the " nomination " of a " Monsignor " (...) " Attention that no human government is infallible : think that the same Providence of God is criticized from the man: if rains, because it is raining; if it is hot, because it is hot... and so on... "

 Also to Luciani arrived expressions like: " he made a nomination at case... without discernment ... what is he waiting for providing ? ... he must be more emphatic, who uses the crosier ". And the Bishop, then, turning the ring at his finger and setting the skullcap, almost always crooked, exclaims: " What a misery! What a misery ! The spirits necessities sacrificed to ambitious dreams, to illusions of self-esteem, to interests and satisfactions of families, to calculations of avarice, to vanity of the human respect. We are Priests of Christ, who was immolated Himself for love of the spirits, He was made obedient until death and death on a Cross".

Then, it was also observed to him, kindly, that, when he reached a parish, he has no "red" sign on him, but a humble and unknown style. Then he used to smile and say: " We also put on a little of red if this serves in order to save the spirits and go to Paradise ".  

don Francesco Taffarel  

  A shocking meeting

  Memories from the Pope’s brother, Edoardo Luciani. " Edoardo was the relative more trusted by Albino. Last time he saw him it was few days before his death, in the papal apartment. When the moment of the greetings arrived, Albino embraced him strongly, for a long while. It never had happened; the " mountain men " are tempered and not very accustomed to sentimentalism. " As it was a definitive goodbye".

 We try to ask if John Paul I never pointed out some project for the Pontificate to Edoardo. And here, unexpected, it came a secret that Edoardo Luciani kept inside since years ago. A secret that makes us to become dumb.

" Plans for the Pontificate... Only the indispensable minimum to fulfill the requirements of the Curia. And do you want to know why? Well, I am persuaded more and more that my brother Albino knew in advance that his Pontificate had to last for a very short time, and also for this he did not conceive programs in long term ".

Immediately it’s possible to think of John Paul I’s weak health. The overwork, physical and emotional stress... But Edoardo is not referring to this, when he says that his brother Pope " knew " he had to die soon. "Look, Albino’s health it has been said and written too many mistaken things, at least, exaggerated... I feel like saying he had an iron health; I have been an artilleryman, of strong constitution, but I would never have withstood the rhythm of life, normal for him, when he was Patriarch of Venice: alarm clock at 4.30 in the morning; full day until 10.30 in the evening". Why, then, John Paul I had the premonition that his Pontificate would last " a very short time "? Here Edoardo Luciani’s amazing answer. " I think that his premonition about a sudden death, as a Pope, was connected to a long talk that Albino had with the only one seer of Fatima still alive.

He met sister Lucy on July 11th , 1977, in Portugal. Just a year before the Conclave from which he exited as a Pope . It was the Nun herself who wanted to meet him and be able to speak with him. My brother went out worried from there. Each time that, in the talks with us he made a reference, he became pale in face. As if a dark thought worried him in the deep. All we had always remained impressed. Now, a posteriori, putting together every signal made by my brother during several talks, everything is clearer. That day the seer said something to him that was referred, not only to the Church, but also to his life, the destiny that God prepared for him..."

 A dark premonition regarding the papal election, followed by dramatic and sudden death ? It seems to be just this the thought, indeed, the deep " persuasion " of John Paul I’s brother".

Lucio Brunelli  

from ‘Il Sabato’

August 28th, 1993  


" Mother, look at the Pope ! "  

" Pray to the Madonna for the Pope ", he told the children, and then, perhaps thinking at the tremendous responsibility of the Shepherd of the Universal Church, he had added: " Pray for me the Madonna because She didn’t make me become a Pope ". This was Card. Luciani’s invitation to the children of Canale D' Agordo. Surely the Madonna will have listened to the innocent prayers but - as we know - nothing could do it. Card. Albino Luciani had to become John Paul I. To the humble Patriarch of Venice will not remain that to regret himself (goodly-natured, it means) with the Cardinals some month after : " May God forgive you for what you have done to me ... " Sunday before Paul VI died, July 27th , Card. Luciani was at Premana, a small mountain town in province of Como. He was walking along the road, enjoying speaking with people of the place, when there a child, between the general astonishment, exclaimed with a loud voice: " Mother, look at the Pope! ". The Cardinal sketches a funny smile and says: " No, it is another one ! " But, the most famous premonitory sign is that given by Paul VI who, in 1972, visiting Venice, took his stole out and put it on the Patriarch’s shoulders making him " to become fully red " (" I had never become so red ", Pope John Paul will say during the first unforgettable greeting to the faithful the day after the election)".  


With the car out of order at the Conclave ‘doors’





‘The Assumption day, Card. Luciani is in Rome, in preparation of the Conclave, and celebrates his Mass in Saint Mark’s church (near Piazza Venezia), from which he takes the Cardinal title. In the speech, he speaks to the faithful about the Virgin, Mother of the Church, sister of ours, inviting repeatedly to pray to the Mother of God for the Pope’s election, for the future Pope. But the Patriarch minimally doesn’t think about himself. He is so sure of coming back to Venice that, the same day of the entrance in Conclave, he will go and tell the mechanic to quickly repair his old car – out of order at the Rome doors : " I recommend you, do it as soon as possible. I will have to return  home (Venice) during the next few days and I wouldn’t know how to pick up the car if I had to leave it here".  


The Sanctuary and the bowls games


‘But, let’s make a step back : who was and where did Albino Luciani come from ?  

 From a poor family, emigrating father, he knew a childhood of sacrifices and needs. " a life of misery – his brother Edoardo says -; from May to October, one went to school  barefoot: the rest of the year, the wooden clogs. After school, we had to lead the cow to the pasture and to cut the hay... Dad was far away ". Also as a seminarist, Albino  spent the Summers cutting the hay on the mountain, whilst his father was in a foreign country because of his job (and he sent money, in order to support the studies of the son who was in the seminary), it’s mother Bortola’s turn (" a holy woman ") to guide the family. One of the most beautiful memories of those hard and laborious years would have been  for Albino the pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Pietralba (Bolzano).

There were 60 - 70 km of road between the mountains : they went on foot and the mother herself  carried the flour on her back in order to make the pearl barley to eat. Priest, Bishop and then Cardinal, Albino would remain faithful to this annual pilgrimage, remaining sometimes at the convent of the Sanctuary for a short period of retreat or rest. During this permanence it happened that the Cardinal went to eat in trattoria in order to approach the pilgrims and people of the place. Near,  there was a bowls court and here Luciani did not lose the occasion to have one little game of bowls".  


Stefano Andreatta

de "Il Rosario"

n. 19/1978




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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