Anecdotes and Testimonies of Pope Luciani


Part VI








- From "Humilitas"  1994 - 1995



A program of Pontificate ... wonderful !


"It is incredible what Luciani had in mind to do as  Pope. The same Card. Villot, that knew his ideas and his purposes, as Secretary of State, said: " I think he would have astonished  the Church and the world "

If it is true how much Luciani has confided to Card. Villot   (see by Camillo Bassotto " My heart is still in Venice ", last chapter), we must say that Luciani, in a short time, has manifested a big plan of work, to amaze also the most indifferent ones.

While, he would also have been a traveller Pope, if he has said : "I am not very fond of  traveling. But I will go wherever they will want me ". He would have been a Pope of clear ideas and with a strong will. He would have changed many things, first of all, in the Curia. "I realize - he says - that the apparatus of the Curia is a giant office, a nearly necessary monument, but cumbersome. The reform of the Curia is urgent... "

He would have changed also his way of working and living. " I receive - he says - every day two suitcases of papers : one in the morning and one in the afternoon; one goes and one comes, as the angels on the scale of Jacob  ... but I don’t want more suitcases on my table. I do not accept this machine that mechanically conditions the Pope in his functions of working and living. The job made in this way becomes unbearable. I have not been made a Pope to become an employee. It is not like that Christ has thought His Church ".

Luciani did not have fear of critics that heard somewhere about his style and his way of speaking. He was frank and humble. " I know that there are monsignors – he says - and others that criticize the speeches I make and the way to be and to make the Pope... Someone has then defined ‘insignificant’ the current Pope. It is not a discovery. I have always known and Our Lord before. I can be a broken slipper, but it is God who operates in me ".

He had expressed the idea of making a Concistory soon, for some Cardinals nominations, between which the theologians De Lubac, Chenu and von Balthasar. He also wanted to give the purple to some Bishops of Africa, Asia and the Americas that have suffered the persecution. " But it is difficult, if there is not the tradition ", Villot answered him. And Luciani responded immediately : " Tradition is created by us ".

Luciani had also in mind to write some letters. The first on " The Unity of the Church". " Only in this way, we will have the papers in rule... We do not betray the burning prayer of Jesus to the Father, His testament, His deepest wounded command". The second letter had to be on " The Bishops Collegiality with the Pope ". He wanted to promote it and extend it. " I would want to make a Synod - he said - a true instrument of the Universal Church government ... I wish to place the Bishops in the limelight in Collegiality with the Pope ". The third letter on " The woman in the civil society and in the ecclesial life ". Too much depreciation, too many prejudgments and too much marginality are accumulated during centuries about women. The fourth letter that Luciani thought to write was on " Poor and Poverty in the World ". That poverty is the scandal of the western world, the rich ones and the Christians.

Luciani had a worry that he candidly revealed to his secretary : " I have the impression that the figure of the Pope is too much praised. There is some risk to fall on the cult of personality, that I don’t want at all. The centre of all is Christ, He is the Church ". He had a living desire : " I would often want to meet the young people... Today young people do not believe in the poverty of the Church, in its evangelical spirit, in its separation from possessions and the power of the world. We must place ourselves at their flank, with humility, to help them".

And speaking about the IOR, he said: " The IOR must integrally be reformed. The Church must not have power, neither to possess riches. The world must know the purposes of the IOR, how is the money collected and how is it spent. It must be shown clearly... ".

It was in Luciani’s heart also the old Cardinals’ situation and he wanted to revalue them. Besides the Bishops’ situation who must renounce at 75 years and he said: " There are Bishops and Cardinals who, at that age, are still healthy, efficient and rich of intellect, of culture and human wisdom, in a position to give the Church the treasures of their heart ".

He had also expressed the will to reform the Conclave and to provide some improvement with the presence, not only of the Cardinals, but also of the Bishops, Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of all the world. And he said: " Also the room of the conclave must be decent and efficient ".

" I want to give a strong impulse to the Catholic Action - he still told his secretary - the Catholic Action has been a vital presence for Italy ".

"There is an other fact that is in my heart. I want to remember and to honour all the Bishops, the Priests, the Religious ones, the Christians who have suffered persecutions for Christ, the Lord. I wish to pay them justice before all the Church... (and he named with veneration Cardinals Slipyj, Mindszenty, Wyszynski, Beran, Stepinac, Msgr. Romero). If it will be granted to me - he added - I will go to remember them and honour them in their countries. We cannot be silent ".

After this program of intentions and work, Luciani told Card. Villot: " These thoughts that I confide to you, Eminence, by now in a short way, are deeply in my heart. You will help me to fulfill them in the right way ".  

And Card. Villot commented: " I have lived a precious experience beside Pope Luciani. He showed the faith of a child, the heart of a mother. He was the man of hope. Pope Luciani died too much soon... "



" It is the Pope who wants it "

  Testimony by the niece of the Pope, Pia Luciani. " He was a determined man. What a pity his Pontificate  was so brief. The last meeting I had with him in Rome was in the middle of September, when he also invited me for lunch, together  with his two secretaries.

It was then that my uncle addressed  a secretary and told him : " Have you done what I ordered you this morning ?". "Yes, but... - he answered - they have told me that it is not possible, because this has never been done".

The Pope, still more decided, ordered him to return in the afternoon to ask the same thing, insisting on " It is the Pope who wants it ".

Isn’t  this perhaps a sign of firmness and decision ? "


don Cesare Vazza



The Bishop doesn’t want neither to get drunk... nor to learn how to smoke !


" Bishop Luciani visited individually  the elderly and sick of the parish where he was for the Pastoral Visit. A big family, far from the centre of the town and dispersed between the fields of the mountain, welcomed the Bishop making him pass for the narrow lane that lead to their house, between two rows of vases of flowers, like a tree-lined avenue, with arches and some banner of welcome, prepared by the boys. 

In the kitchen next to the fire, the grandmother wore her best dress, clean and ironed : the table was ready and there was also a bottle of grappa. They say: "Sior vescovo l'č la prima volta che lu el viene qua da noaltri; el xe un onor grande par la nostra famiglia e dopo, caso mai, el deventa Papa podemo dir che lů l'č stat a casa nostra e l'ha magnŕ co noaltri. Al beva sta graspa, la scalda dentro !" ("Mr. Bishop, this is the first time that you come here; it’s a great honour to our family and after, maybe, you become Pope we can say that you have been to our home and you have eaten with us. Have this grappa, it makes you warm inside ! ")

And Bishop Luciani:

- El salo lu la differenza tra grappa e l'acqua ?  (And do you know the difference between grappa and water ?)

- Sentiamo sto indovinelo !  (Let’s listen to this riddle !)

- The water makes the fall before and then the force; the water makes the fall before and makes the turbine of the power plant turn and then this produces the force, the electric power. The grappa, instead, makes the force, the energy, before and then the fall ! E se un vescovo al fesse una caduta non saria bel a veder".  (And if a Bishop made a fall that wouldn’t be beautiful to see!").


"The Bishop was invited to celebrate Mass and " to say two words " to the workers of a cement factory.

At the end, he stays to speak with everyone  around him and they invite him to go into the dinning-room, to sit down and drink a good glass of wine, like that one of the Priests for " the last Mass " and offer him a cigarette. 

- A little wine I drink it with you with pleasure, but I have never smoked in all my life and I don’t feel like learning it at all ! 


They have preferred the TV rather than the Bishop

In a rest house, Luciani met a group of forty hosts, the majority of whom are elderly ladies ... 

- "Excellence, we must go away. We must go to watch " Fury "!

- "And, who is Fury ?", asks the Bishop.

- "You don't know who it is? It is a horse. It is beautiful".

They all went to the room  to watch " Fury " on T.V.. The Bishop, remaining alone, said : 

 - "Oh! Poor me ! I speak about God, I make high speeches: it must come down, get in the interests and the way to speak of the people. High clouds do not send the rain. It must make Catechism without " mitre ", as don Forest told the Cardinal of Turin, who had gone to meet his boys with the Episcopal mitre on the head, that hit on the beam of the house ceiling".



The competition

 "He arrived on a  rainy morning in November to examine the boys of the elementary schools. He has a disturbance in the throat, a kind of hiccough, and he asked me: "Don Antonio, is it possible to have a sugar lump?" – ‘We will look in the kitchen’ – "Miss, he adds, put here in my hand the sugar and add some drops of vinegar on it". Then he went to talk in all the classes. The prescription had worked. The row of the altar-boys were at the door of the Priest’s house. Waiting to leave, the Bishop notices that there was an altar-boy in red socks. ‘Look  here, he says with the usual good mood, there is one who wants to be in competition with me. But I am willing to leave you the place, you know..." 

don Antonio Baccichetti



A love letter in delay for Pope John Paul I


Dear Albino,


In the first anniversary of your death, I have finally begun reading your book, "Illustrissimi". How would you become " red " to know that now you are one of the " most illustrious ones "! So I write you to tell you that I miss you so much. Call it love, like Pinocchio’s "fall in love". I think that what more I love in you is the way in which you could continue smiling through everything. Only much deep suffering, imbibed of much humility and much love could give you such a brightness.  

I have been affected specially when I have read (on the " Des Moines Register ") the observation that a Cardinal had made about you. He asked how could you keep on smiling so much and you said : " If you knew what I’m feeling within me ! ". Yes, then, I could feel it, too, without mentioning the reality with which you have expressed the conflicting nature of David in the Psalms. Those to die and to revive in the pride and their fight, have also relieved in your nature. How much more of God’s humanity could it be found than in your humility, in that sincere search of His hope? But, to take you closer to us, there was a song who I have often played on the " stereo 8 track ". It was a " top 10 " Anne Murray song, a " country music " artist, a type of love song entitled " You needed me ". After having listened many times, I have understood, not only that you needed of us, but indeed we all needed of you :


You gave me strength

to stand alone again

to face the world

out on my own again

you put me high

upon a pedestal

so high that I could almost see


You needed me, you needed me


And certainly you have made us catch a glimpse a little of the paradise through that smile. But then, otherwise, in that little bit of sweet sadness, that many times it fascinates us, you have also left a print on me here.

For you, that you have come from Venice, there was another illustrious inhabitant of that city (although from the far away past). He also was a Priest called Antonio Vivaldi, composer of " The Four Seasons ". I have very often played that recording in this small apartment. I think the season that has said more about you it is in the middle of the movement " The Winter " in F minor . A pizzicato of the ropes of the violins is so sweet, so similar to a person who hops alone in a winter landscape and, at the same time, so alive, vibrating and joyful. The sweet fall of those notes is similar to the sweetness of snow stratums that come down, at he end played live from the notes of the organ in the bottom.

Well, dear Albino, this is a praise for you from a lay, in a last Requiescat in peace.

May we see us again.


Mary Ellen Eckelberg Clinton,

Iowa (Diocese of Davenport) USA

from the "Catholic Messenger", Sep 20th, 1979



The last meetings ...

 From the interview to the Pope’s brother, Edoardo " Berto " Luciani. " I asked " Berto " which are the stronger memories from your brother as a Pope. He answered me calmly and he spoke to me as though those moments had only been yesterday. A first visit to the brother elected to the Apostolic See a few days before, Edoardo made it at the eve of the solemn beginning of the Pontificate.

 " Angel, the waiter who today is also next to the Pope, came to the Roman pension where I lodged with the relatives and he told me that my brother wished to meet me. Arriving at the Vatican, I managed to speak with don Albino a couple of hours. We spoke about my family, the children and the grandchildren, but also about what had happened to him. He was serene and the time flew away for us in a moment. Before leaving me, he indicated a table crucifix and he asked me to take it  with me as a gift for the family. I observed that it was adapted for a church more than for a house and that it should have be better to donate it to some Priest who could place it on an altar; but he insisted strangely. Now, I am sorry a little, you know, I was confused; anyway, I had even raised my voice, I  said good-bye to him and I left. An hour had not passed, when the good  assistant Angel was again at the pension to deliver to me that crucifix that we now keep in the room and I let you see it ... "

 - And the story of the watch ?

" Oh, yes ! - he told me - that day instead I had accepted, without so many tales, to put on my wrist the watch that he had taken out in my presence. I had opened a box where there was the watch that  Paul VI wore and that Monsignor Macchi had given him seeing that his was not automatic. So I wear it (with Paul VI’s coat of arms) and the other one is worn by my wife (what he had at the moment of his death). I look a these watches and I connect those mysterious moments with the things that Sister Vincenza told me; I think about the value of the time and I see it like a precious currency to spend for the eternity. The love, the abandonment in God, the faith, the sacrifice, haven’t been measured by the time, perhaps but they have been weighed by the intensity."

 - And the last meeting, how did it happen ?

 " Before leaving for Australia, I had telephoned the Vatican. My brother asked me to go and meet him (maybe it was September 9th or 10th) and so, early in the afternoon, I went up to the apartment. Don Albino was busy, and then I came down to St. Peter’s Basilica; I have visited it and I took part in the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gantin. I still remember the Homily, beautiful and original; indeed, I  also spoke about it with my brother in the evening and he  expressed esteem and love for this Cardinal. We  had supper together and then we have went outside for a walk under the roof, as in a cloister, until late, I think until 11p.m., speaking about many things that I remember perfectly. Then, I went to sleep and that was the only night that I have spent in Vatican. In the morning, I participated in  the Mass and I  read the Epistle; we  had breakfast together and then we had to say good-bye. He embraced me and kissed me. We are not accustomed to these things, at home we don’t usually do these things ... And, then, I  told him : Is it due to this white dress that you have to do like that ? But he did not answer me, he seemed to be thinking about other things. I was going to the elevator in order to descend; but, with great surprise, I  met him there, in the elevator..., How could he do it ? I do not know : he  embraced me again and he still kissed me. I haven’t said anything else; I was touched. Today I was told that, in that moment, he behaved like one who has his days counted. Those evenings of  Lent, here at Canale, come to my mind; I can see again his face pale and greatly worried ... But I put into use his always valid advice : Don’t let us get carried-away by the fantasy. Now he is praying with us and for us ".


don Licio Boldrin



The lovely look and the tears


 " It comes to memory the testimony of sister Bartolomea Santin, the Nun who directed the House of Exercises in Vittorio Veneto, together with sister Virginia Negri and sister Francesca Ghersini, when Luciani left Vittorio Veneto in order to go to Venice: " I keep in my heart and in my eyes the figure of Pope Luciani the morning that had left the Castle (Castle of Saint Martino – Bishop’s Palace of Vittorio Veneto) to go to Venice (it was on February 8th, 1970). We Nuns waited for him to say good-bye out the house of Exercises, near the well. He said: " Wait, I have to greet the Nuns ". The voice was touched; he came near us, a lovely look that I don’t know how to explain; those eyes had wept; I will never forget them ".

 And then, passing next to the Seminary, while the Cathedral bells rang and they were the only ones to greet  him, he turned round towards the Seminary; he made a blessing traced with the hand".


don Francesco Taffarel



Promises … didn’t make

 "Don Felice Tomaselli, aged 84 years,  also, like Luciani, from the Val of Biois, remembers that, returning home from Feltre, for Easter holidays, in the third year of  secondary school, on the train, they spoke about the last spiritual retreat and they also said, with candour, the promises they had made, while Luciani was silent, watching the landscape from the window of the train.

" And you, Albino, what promises have you made ?", one of the most curious asked him. He answered thoughtful : " I haven’t made any, because I am not capable of keep them".


" Bad companies "... and the withheld laugh

 "Don Francisco Olivotto, an amateur radio-operator Priest, ‘infected’ also Luciani, at school, with his electronics. During the hour of Moral, once Luciani was distracted by the companion who showed him an airplane sketch that interested him, but the teacher, looking at the scene, reproached particularly Luciani and such a reproach he will remember it, smiling, also as a Bishop, when he meets don Francisco in Vittorio Veneto ". 

"Don Francisco – continues - remembers that, to Luciani, it was enough for him to listen to the lesson once in class to know it ...; so, during the study, he read other lighter books of culture or also of pastime. " One day, he was in front of me, in the study - he says – and he was shaking, he was making an effort in order to withhold his laugh and not to disturb the others; he even changed colour! Then I have seen what he was reading : Don Quixote. There was enough to laugh at !"


don Cesare Vazza



"If they don’t make him Pope, I leave the Priesthood"


 " I have met in person Pope Luciani when he was Patriarch of Venice, during the holiday I spent at Pietralba from August 8th to 18th, 1976. (...) As soon as I got out of the car at the convent of Pietralba (I was accompanied by two young people), a Servite father that I had never seen before approached to me and said as a welcome these precise words to me : " It is here where the Patriarch of Venice is: if, when Paul VI dies, they don’t make him Pope, I will leave the Priesthood".

I did not answer anything, I knew that in the Order he had been also provincial, he had been traveling through Italy a little and he had a preachers' reputation. 

I saw him (Luciani) for the first time in the dining room; having perhaps been told that a Priest had arrived from Milan, stood up on the threshold, he began watching, perhaps to look for me. I stood up; he came towards me soon and greeted me with joy. Then he went to his place, with a small group of persons, on the table prepared as for the others, without some distinction. I had said : " Good appetite, Eminence ", but I noticed that he ate little, drank little, did not make to weigh his presence, indeed, that table was rather frisky. Since that time, with my great confusion, I had to realize that he was accompanied gladly by me and I... felt edified and admired every time. Here are the reasons :


Dress : always black, a worn out cassock, nearly green, peeled a lot - black shoes as a mountain man, all broken (it seemed he made hard work to walk) - never the ensigns, neither the skullcap, nor the ring, nor the cross, that he put on instead when celebrating Mass. Glasses and last alloy watch. Never a cigarette (the other Priests and Religious smoked), never a liqueur, never a purchase of things from the place; he invited me to sit always on the stone or wood bench taking himself the last place. He remembered me a lot, a lot, a lot my Cardinal Schuster.


Piety : true, deep, inner and with the practices well disposed along the day, following a timetable to which he  maintained faithfully : private prayer, meditation with the book, breviary, preparation and thanks during Mass, visits, rosary, conscience examinations, readings of books of Saints. In the Sanctuary, always the same place : second bench, last place close to the wall while, on the greater Altar, there was a lot of things ready. Every day I saw him make the hour of adoration, always from 6.00p.m. to 7.00p.m., because afterwards there was the Eve Mass with the Fathers, presided by the Superior. The Patriarch always celebrated in the morning at 7.30.


Intelligence: very lively; he was been one of the most intelligent peopleI have found in all my life. Updated in Theology, especially Dogmatic, with a mentality, not only of a university professor, but of an investigator and, above all, of a believer. It was a pleasure to speak about theological arguments. He had adapted the truth to the marrow and he lived it. Once, there was a discussion about  Mariology ! - " Unus mediator... " and so on with this kind of citations, and I was disarmed myself –


"But it enters in God’s plan that the Madonna is in this place, so close to Jesus, so close to us ... but, if also people enter in the Sanctuary and run towards the Madonna without greeting Jesus, it will be Her that will send them to His Son ".

- "But people must be educated ... it is the turn of us, Priests".

But I  understood that my poor words had shaken him.

- "Eminence, I have been in Lourdes and Fatima ...".

I knew that the next year he sent for the Epiphany a beautiful pastoral letter about the Madonna and he went to Fatima and spoke with Lucia ".


don Giulio Giacometti



A petition of absolution


 "On November 1968, Msgr. Luciani had entrusted me to undertake a search in the Seminaries of Northern Italy and Southern France in order to verify where the seminarists were sent to the Stately Secondary Schools, Advanced and Inferiors.

I had delivered the enough heavyset and detailed search in the motivations. The Bishop  thanked me. After three weeks, he  decided to send also our seminarists to public schools. In my pride, it seemed to me that he should have told me that he had taken this decision. That’s why  I went to talk and I told him that I was surprised he hadn’t kept me informed. After having spoken good enough and inflamely, he asked me : " Have you finished ? ". I answered: " Yes ". He stood up,  came close to  where I was seated, he knelt down and told me : " Now, give me absolution !". Since that day, I reflected well before going to him to complain for something ".


A Priest of Vittorio Veneto



" I am going away and I will not return any more "


 Memories of a Nun who served him in Vittorio Veneto and Venice.

 "In one occasion, the Bishop blamed me and his secretary, don Arrigo, due to  false information given by a person that Luciani estimated. He, in good faith, believed it. Don Arrigo and me, who then was the house exercises Director,  had sacrificed ourselves a lot with charity for that. The accusation hit us disfiguring our work.

That day, after  lunch, the indignant secretary took the car and left; that day, fortunately I had to go to Treviso for a meeting. Leaving, I told Luciani: " I am going away and I will not return any more ". He tried to reason with me, but to no avail. The Bishop must have suffered very much, also because very sensitive that he would never have made anybody bitter, a lot that sister Vincenza told me when I came back that, that afternoon, several times he had come to the kitchen to ask if we had returned.

In the evening, we returned at 8.00p.m.. After supper, the Bishop called us inviting us to recite together Completes. Reluctantly, we went to the chapel. After the conscience examination, Luciani  knelt down on the floor and apologized to us, saying that he was wrong and the reported thing was completely false. This was the great humility of Pope Luciani ".  



 Deep humanity and exquisite kindness


" A Summer afternoon, while I was bringing some coffee to the Bishop, who  was in the chapel, about 3.00p.m., Paul (who often came to borrow something) knocked at the door. I calmly served coffee and Luciani asked me : " Did you hear the door-bell ". I answered " Yes, but it’s just Paul, I’ll go afterwards". He left the coffee and went to open to Paul : the poor one was more important than the Bishop.

Every morning, he was always the first one to greet people and to ask: " How are you ? Did you sleep ? Did you have some coffee ?"  

This is Bishop Luciani, deeply human.  

Luciani had the art of removing everybody from any embarrassment. I remember that, in the morning, at the Bishop’s Palace of Vittorio, when I finished tidying his bedroom, I had to pass through the study, where there were nearly always people. Always mindful of others, he called  me and invited me to pass without fear, with broom and rags. he always added: " Sister, you save me the Diocese with the scope and rags ". In that way, he always  removed me from any embarrassment ".



" I feel like a prisoner! "


Memories after his transfer to Venice.

"He asked me one day: " How are you, sister ? Do you begin being accustomed to this atmosphere ? ". I answered: " Badly, Excellence, sometimes I think I become a prisoner". He intended to convince me of the contrary and I said : " You can well say that because you go out nearly every day ". After some time, one afternoon he came to me at about 6.00p.m. and told me: " You know, sister Matilde, that I couldn’t go out for two days and I feel like a prisoner ". He could be silent, nevertheless his humility made him be so much true.


Without money


 "What about of his evangelic poverty ? Here I could write a book of facts of which I have been spectator . Only one : he asked me to send a registered letter; I asked him for some money; He searched in his pockets, in his wallet, in the drawers but he did not find 1,000 Liras to give me. Then he, fully humble, said : "Borrow them from the Superior".


sister Matilde Rivis



The prediction of a cardinal on the hand palm


From an interview made to Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, from "Il Sabato".


- Is it true that you  also predicted, but as a game, his election to Peter’s See ?  

" It is true, yes. It happens at the beginning of the ballot procedures, on August 26th. In a joking way, I asked him to look at the palm of his hand, and I predicted that I saw a tiara on his palm, and so he would be elected as a Pope very soon. He seemed to be amused, but he removed my ‘prophecy’ as a ridiculous thing coming from me". He told me that his health was not of the best ones and that he hadn't any academic training".


- And, after the election, did you talk to each other again ?

" After the election, all the Cardinals of the Conclave had to come near the new Pontiff, to pay homage to him. While I was kneeling down in front of him, he smiled and told me: You are a prophet. I answered : Some time... "  


 – According to a biographer, the Pope added : " But my Pontificate will be short ..."

Those were indeed prophetic words. Nevertheless, in spite of the brevity of the Pontificate, he was in position of changing many things in the Curia. The simplicity of the ways and the separation from profanely power are his bequest to the Church ".


from "Il Sabato"

September 1993


 He would have renounced

 By don Diego Lorenzi.

 " The evening of August 25th, when he was about to enter in Conclave, I told him that the next day he would have had a beautiful number of ballots to his favor because they would have voted the holiest one. Luciani answered me that, first, it is not easy to measure the holiness of a person and that, second, if they had elected him, he would have renounced. Then, instead, he accepted convinced that the Will of God must be accepted without delay".

" These things do not have to be said "


 From father Bartolomeo Sorge.

" We were at the table, together with the Carmelite friars after a spiritual retreat and, while we were eating, I saw that there was a memorial stone on the wall of the refectory : " In this refectory, before becoming Pope, Giuseppe Sarto ate, later Pius X ". I told the Patriarch : " Look at that strange memorial stone and if beside that name they put other ones, even yours" And he : " But, are you joking, Father ?. These things do not have to be said".




A Fernet from the unforgettable taste


 " It was 1960. I returned to Italy from the Matto Grosso (Brazil) for the second time. The secretary of the Bishop had fixed the audience for me for a Tuesday in February at 10.00a.m.. A mild sunny day, white with snow. I crossed quickly the Cathedral Square, now John Paul I’s Square, and started the long climb of Brevia street that leads to the main entrance of  San Martino’s Castle, residence of the vittoriesi Bishops.

I pedalled with energy and made some progress. I felt bad, so dismounted from  the bicycle and sat down on the wall that existed at that time. I tried a respiratory exercise that refreshed me. I start the climb by foot, pushing the bicycle. At about ten, I arrive at the castle.

I went up the stairs that took me to the landing that is in front of the hall entrance door. It was the time of the audience.

I put in order my ecclesiastical dress, and rang the door-bell. The secretary received me with a  : ‘ Welcome, Father, Your Excellence is waiting for you’.

In front of the Bishop, every fear stopped. I bowed and kissed the ring. He held my hand in his. I stood up again, he looked me in the eye and said in  a low voice :

- ‘You do not look well, Father, are you feeling badly?’ And, without waiting for an answer, he told me :

- ‘Come with me’. I follow him and we arrive to the dining room.

- ‘Sister’, he called, and a Nun appeared.

- ‘Sister’, he told her, ‘ bring a cordial  for the Father’. She reappeared with tray with a little glass and a bottle of Fernet Branca, the legitimate one. I drank slowly and the Fernet made me refreshed completely.  

I do not know why, watching the Bishop who was smiling, S. Paul’s words came to my mind : " The human benignity of our Savior has been revealed".  

When they made him Pope, the parish people asked me if I knew him. 

 I have seen him closely some times. I have also spoken to him.  

About him, I can say with determination that he is deeply human, friendly and full of goodness. And, while saying these words, I felt another time, the final smell of that lightly sweet, insolvent and comforting Fernet.

On him, Bishop or Pope, it has been revealed "the human benignity of our Savior".

This is the way I remember him".

P. Joao Pancot




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