Articles from the Argentinian Press

( Part I )


"Clarín", August 27th, 1978



A Patriarch who used to ride on a bicycle

  The human profile of Albino Luciani is  designed only by listening and transcribing the tale of those who  know him. Unusual means of transport: the bicycle. Predominant qualities: a foolproof kindness, overflowing simplicity and sympathy. A deep learner, he plays bowls. He is qualified in the Gregorian of Rome and during the holidays he worked in the fields helping his own. He was born on October 17th, 1912 at Forno di Canale. He has a brother and a sister and thirteen nephews. Adversary of abortion and divorce, his ideas are incisive and, generally, he got to the point. 

What is this shepherd who will have to guide a Catholic crowd of 750 millions of persons like? The first media-pictures with his face show him smiling, warm, of an  inconspicuous stature, rather pale. Those who know him closely say that he speaks  little and goes straight to the point when he has to speak about a particular topic. One of his  many friends, Pedro Arrupe, remarks on  his rich social sensibility and, especially, his personal experience.

Because John Paul I started being an exemplary pupil to become a model of pastoral teaching. " He wrote very long homework, of 10 to 12 pages and he showed he had very high intelligence ", says don Giulio Gaio, who was his teacher in the seminary of Feltre, Belluno. It was 1927 and the young Albino Luciani, aged 14 years, had gained the following marks in his studies: French 7, Religion 8, History 10, Arithmetic 7, Geography 10, Latin, Greek and Italian 7,5. The time and how not to lose  taking advantage of it for God's service was one of his attitudes in life. From the beginning of his priesthood he felt inclined to education. Plus,  he did it with the tenderness and the simplicity that always characterized him. The bicycle was his ideal mean of transport. He was passing through the Italian villages with tenacity on this mean of transport that he never gave up until becoming Pope -  even when he was  Patriarch of Venice. None of  the Venetians who, somewhat surprised, saw Fr. Luciani on his bicycle in the city will ever forget these scenes.

John Paul I does not make many gestures while he speaks (something typically peninsular) but he accompanies softly the movement of his hands with his words. We could say  be said that the new Pope has always practiced the happiness of living. Even in his preferences: when he goes on holidays, he plays bowls, prefers simple food without spices, he likes neither protocols nor ceremonies.

 When he was Patriarch of Venice, he did not want escorts and managed to go out alone. The owners of a restaurant at Pietralba, northern Italy, assured us that John Paul I " eats as a little bird, but without doubt  ... he speaks very much, plays jokes, is very charming ". The owner of the restaurant added with his eyes full of tears: " The new and dear Pope put aside his simplicity during meals in only one thing, he likes nuts ".

Three stars reflected on a blue background and mountains that recall, those of the Agordino (where he was born): they are the symbols of Albino Luciani's coat of arms as a Bishop. They are drawn under the name of Saint Mark and there stands out the same lion that appears on John XXIII' s coat of arms, to indicate the common origin of the Patriarchy of Venice. Regarding his family, Pope John Paul I has a brother, Berto Luciani (father of eleven children) and a sister, Nina, married to a bricklayer (mother of two children and settled in Santa Giuliana di Levico, Trento zone). " Berto still lives in the family house, at Canale D'Agordo ", said one of the Pope's Venetian collaborators.

Of serene character, friend of anecdotes and jokes, John Paul I belongs to these persons from whom it is said one enjoys being at his side. His voice is strong, powerful, but he never used it to be authoritarian. He is a wise man who, for his natural humility, knows how not to demonstrate how much he knows. The new Pope's motto is 'Humilitas', that means, humility as a personal way of life, as an attitude facing life. The same humility that he used years ago when he was exercising the teaching or that one he showed driving his bicycle and already being Patriarch of Venice. His face is marked by strong features, his look is penetrating and tender at the same time. The  new Vicar of Christ already has a name and a presence in the world; responsibility which John Paul I adopted with humility and happiness, with a full smile greeting from Saint Peter to the crowd that see in him the humble great man of hope.

Luis Mazas





Magazine " Radiolandia 2000 ", August, 1978


" We want peace and a new order, more just and more sincere "

(Impressions of a journalist in Saint Peter's Square, August 26th, 1978)



ROMA, by Natalio Gorin. Photos: Carlos Fraga (special R.2000 reporters). 

Saturday, August 26th, 1978. An indelible day for the history of the Church, for Romans, for thousands of faithful, pilgrims and tourists gathered in Saint Peter's Square, and for me.

Yes, for me. I say it without shame. Because perhaps as ever, in this moment, I understand the value that the special reporters from an Argentinian magazine have, depending on the statement - seeing with Argentine eyes -  a world event.

It was a quarter past six in the evening. Someone shouted " Fumata! ". We all, unbelieving, looked towards the roof of the Sixtine Chapel. It was true, but also a surprise, because the smoke 'had' to go out after seven o'clock according to the schedules. Something was happening. We correspondents looked at ourselves. I thought : there can be a Pope in the third scrutiny, it is very early for the fourth (the Apostolic Constitution for the election of Popes indicates two scrutinies in the morning and two in the evening).

I felt that from all the corners of the square, a widespread 'nervousness' was emerging. I think that it would be better to say 'emotion'. I looked around. Several nuns were praying. The Romans were disagreeing loudly: " The smoke is white "; " No, it is black ". They all were right. The smoke of the midday had been of an intense, unquestionable black. Now, it was different, because the sun was behind Saint Peter's Basilica and the contrasts of light were not helping.

I met an Argentinian colleague: " The television has already informed people that it is white; but the radio went beyond, ¡ they said grey! ". Nobody moved from the square. The smoke kept on going out. Old Italian journalists, with two or three "fumatas" on their white hairs, were anxious, too: " The smoke is longer, bigger ". It was necessary to wait. The only official information, according to the same Apostolic Constitution, would be given (or not, if the central balcony of the Basilica was not opened), by the Proto-deacon Cardinal Pericle Felici.

Finally, exactly at 7.18 PM, a rumour that, within mere seconds, became shouts, applauses and cheers tcalm: impossible. Immediately they placed the papal coat of arms on the balcony. 

And the Pope appeared. Seconds before, I had listened to Cardinal Felici  say he was called Albino Luciani, who was Patriarch of Venice and who, from now on, would be "Giovanni Paolo Primo" (John Paul I). I saw his figure, his serene gesture and, suddenly, I realized that I was applauding with an emotion not seen before. I was not the only one. The Italian colleagues were taking notes with tears in their eyes. A lot of people were kneeling down following John Paul I's first blessing (" Urbi et Orbi ").




  Someone took me by the arm. It was Elisa Marroco, special reporter from 'Vosotras' magazine. " How do we write this ? ". I told her I didn't know;  I was trembling and had a knot in my throat. The same thing was happening to her; to her and to all. At this moment, several figures came into my mind. My dear people. Radiolandia 2000's staff. I ended being grateful to this blessed profession for having been able to live this unforgettable, indelible day, eternally. 


O " The Church lives " 

It is inevitable. Because of that, in the last lines, I want to return to Saturday, August 26th. Because the bells of Rome still resound in my ears, announcing to the world the election of a new Pope... Yes, the bells were ringing out merrily, maybe like accompanying some already historical words that Paul VI pronounced in 1965:

- The Church loves; the Church suffers; the Church sings; THE CHURCH LIVES!

Magazine " Siete Días ", August  31st, 1978 

" Habemus Papam " (I)



Two young religious sisters turn round to Via della Conciliazione, the great avenue that connects the Vatican with the city of Rome. There are tourists from all  nationalities (European, African, American, Asian) running  with their photographic cameras around their necks in their coloured clothes. They run, the simple inhabitants of the 'Borgo', formerly the most popular neighbourhood which keeps close to the Vatican as a coral to rock, feeling tied to the Holy Father in an almost familiar relation.

A bus, which has to cross one crossing due to the crowd, provokes the start of a series of 'bottlenecks'. The police, with their portable transceivers, unsuccessfully try to keep a little order in the traffic. The traffic goes mad. Whoever can, parks his car or gets off the bus and continues by foot, joining the rest of the moved, curious people. Someone shouts: " Run to Saint Peter. He was elected ".

In the background, closing the scene as a big stage, the majestic and grey silhouette of the biggest temple of Christianity: Saint Peter's Basilica. At the level of the large window, a thin flesh-coloured band: they are the Cardinals with their purple cassocks. One of them, the Proto-deacon Pericle Felici, announces to the crowd (which already almost covers the whole square in front of the basilica)  the good news: " Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam. Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum dominum, dominum Albinum, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Luciani qui sibi nomen imposuit Iohannis Pauli Primi " (" I announce a great happiness: we have a Pope. The most Eminent and most Reverend , Lord Albino, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Luciani, who has taken the name of John Paul I ").

Hardly ten minutes later and the new Pontiff appears. It is 7.30 PM. The Holy Father's hands raise to give his first blessing " Urbi et Orbi ", that means, to Rome and to whole world. His voice breaks due to the unconcealed emotion as he pronounces the first words of the formula in Latin: " With the authority of Peter and Paul ... " 

The new Pope has a light Venetian accent. And someone, close to us, in the middle of the crowd, risks already the comparison (that will immediately be generalized) with John XXIII. 

Fernando Elenberg

( Correspondent in Rome)


Magazine "Gente", August 31st, 1978 

" Habemus Papam " (II) 

" The journalists were often near Albino Luciani, but they did not take a photo, nor ask a question, of him, simply because they felt he was not one of the candidates ". 

"The smoke is black". "No, I saw it white". "It was not very clear, it seemed to be grey".

Nobody stops giving opinions, looking towards the famous chimney.

It was 6.24PM in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. Not even a pinch of air was circulating in the most oppressive evening of the Roman summer. Approximately 100,000 people were looking in despair for the shade of Bernini's colonnades, or were turning with the thread of freshness that the Egyptian pyramid of the centre was projecting, or were relieving their heads in the water of both fountains.

Vatican Radio was reflecting in this moment the same confusion, the same uncertainty.

' Mondovisione ' net had fixed its cameras on this doubtful smoke that was extending - with interruptions - for more than 20 minutes. In spite of the modifications the old iron stove of the Sixtine Chapel had suffered on this occasion (it wasn't  fed with humid straw, old copies of 'L'Osservatore Romano' and wood of the walnut-tree, but chemical fuels were used), it offered the same disorientation as when John XXIII and Pius XII were elected.

For 50 minutes, the doubt lasted in St. Peter's. Yet none of the 100,000 people moved. " It is impossible, it is too much early ", said some of them. " It is already very dark ", others were saying. However, several signs were keeping  them: a fumata had never been so long, and one of the internal windows of the Sixtine Chapel opened, as a sign that the conclave had ended.

At 7.17 PM, a roar, an exclamation passed through the square: the main window of Saint Peter's Basilica - that of the balcony – is opened. Someone tests the microphone: it is working clear and perfect. Already there are no doubts: the Pope has been elected.

An impressive ovation welcomes all the 110 cardinals who – in white and red - appear at the other windows, which are at both sides of the main large window.

It is 7.27 PM in Rome. Four men hang the immense and splendid papal emblem on the balcony.

The voice of Cardinal Pericle Felici is listened in the middle of a silence that did not need orders. " Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam ". I can not explain the kind of delirium at that moment. The bells of all Rome were ringing. The powerful reflectors - which were highly- located illuminated the whole facade of the Basilica, giving it an aspect of celebration. The people were waving handkerchiefs, hats, books, newspapers, and bags. Nobody could hear when Cardinal Felici announced the  new Pope's name. Who is he? Who is he?, everybody was wondering. Then the seller of back copies of  ' L'Osservatore Romano' , which had published the faces of all the 111 Cardinals taking part in the conclave - and who was yawning inactively until a few minutes earlier - was practically buried by the onlookers.

The election, without doubts, took everyone by surprise. The new Pope's name had never appeared, among the 'papables' that had been mentioned during the last ten days.

" He is from Venice, he is from Venice as John XXIII ", some shouted. " He is 66 years. Good age ", others were discovering. " Pretty face. The face of a real shepherd ", murmured at my side Sister Antoniette Mensah, come specially from Calabar, in Nigeria, for this election.

   The journalists, at the same time, were surely thinking  about the irony of never having noticed  the new Pope crossing  the gardens of the Vatican Palace many mornings - on his  way to the Congregation - and never having taken  a photo, nor asked a question, simply because he hadn't appeared among the10 or 12 favorites to the Pontifical Rose.

The special formation of the Swiss Guard now starts a parade in the middle of the square, between corridors that have been opened with heavy fences. They play their drums, and have already changed the mourning uniform: it is their way of revering their new monarch.

It is 7.42 p.m. in a reddish Roman twilight, when the pontifical cross appears in the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

The moment is of  indescribable emotion.

The man who comes behind this Cross smiles; almost without being able to control himself. He often raises both hands; sometimes, only one. Or he put them together as in a prayer. He seems to greet some friends. He lowers his head and seems to want to embrace all, putting it out of the edge of the balcony more than recommended. The small round skullcap slips and he laughs very much when someone helps to find it.

They are the gestures of a moved, surprised man, maybe confused facing a similar welcome.

Some of them – many – weep at my side. They kneel down. They shout: " Long live the Pope ! "

     However, the silence becomes impressive when they bring him the microphone.

It is like this as the whole world, by means of this warm voice - with a clear Veneto accent (according to the experts) - this voice that is repeatedly broken due to the weeping, receives the first blessing " Urbi et Orbi " from the new Pope of the Catholic Church.

A hundred thousand voices answer "Amen" for three times.

Albino Luciani, born 66 years ago in Forno di Canale, a rural town of 1,000 inhabitants, in the province of Belluno. Albino Luciani, the man who once said: " If I had not been a Bishop, I would have wanted to be a journalist ".

Albino Luciani, finally, the 263rd. Pontiff of the Catholic Church, took the name of Giovanni Paolo.

John Paul I.

Perhaps a definition, and also a commitment: that of the continuity of the ideals of both giants who preceded him : John XXIII and Paul VI. Ten minutes after he'd left the balcony, the fervour of the crowd forced John Paul I to reappear on the balcony.

Already the ' L'Osservatore Romano ' extraordinary editions - no more with the black band on the cover but now with the yellow one - and those of  'Il Tempo', were circulating anxiously across the square. Excessive rapidity and efficiency? Did they have priority information, before all 857  journalists who were present? Nobody could answer this question; neither did anybody mind, because John Paul I, St. Peter's successor, elected unanimously in the record time of 26 hours - and after the third scrutiny - was smiling in the square that now was dressed for a party .

John Paul I. For the first time in the history, a Pontiff takes two names.

John Paul I. Rome already has a Bishop again. Christ, His Vicar. The Catholic Church, its Shepherd.

The world -  believer or not, rebel or sceptic - was finding again its point of reference.

That's why his voice sounded so pretty in this Italian dusk.

John Paul I. In his first Mass as maximum Pontiff of the Catholic Church - Mass that was celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, in the presence of all the Cardinals – he made a brief sketch of what was going to be his pontificate. The essential points of his government will be: continuity with the heredity of the Council, maintenance of the unit of the Church, evangelization, ecumenical effort, serene and constructive dialogue, attention and increase of  peace in the world.

All he offers reveals a great balance and, at the same time, a great opening.

He is called John Paul I. He is the third Patriarch of Venice who comes to the pontificate: firstly it was Pius X and later John XXIII.

He loves a game of bowls,  trips in gondola,  sparkling wine,  literature,  irony, the humour,  good coffee and  dialogue.

Perhaps because of all of  this, on the main balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica, while the sun was setting behind the dome and all the bells of Rome were ringing out merrily, he was smiling.

 It seemed to be  natural for us all that the people started calling him  simply 'Gianpaolo',. or 'don Albino', as in Venice, while his warm voice often broken by  great emotion, was bringing quietness to a major part of the world and was bringing happiness in Saint Peter's Square.


Reneé Sallas



Magazine "Gente", September 7th, 1978


Canale D ' Agordo, province of Belluno, Italy.


Here  was born the Pope who laughs


The letter is almost lost between the 142 telegrams from all parts of the world, and the photos in disorder - familiar and distant photos - that were saved from the journalistic voracity of the first days. The letter remains over the old stove fed with lumber, that warmed the same room as on October 17th, 1912, when Albino Luciani came to the world.

The telephone 50340 rings without pause, and when Edoardo Luciani, " TEACHER BERTO ", hears a language that is not exactly the Belluno dialect, becomes nervous, moves with impotence several times the head and repeats: " Mi dispiace, ma non ho capito niente " (I am sorry, but I have not understood anything).

Later, he comes towards us and adds: " English, French, Spanish, German ... how do the journalists expect me to learn so many languages in a short time? I have hardly slept 7 hours in the last 5 days ".

In the family house there is the smell of food, of  newly-baked bread, of mature peaches, of azaleas and pines. The house door is always open - as before - while Edoardo Luciani, Albino's brother, gets tired trying to welcome all the onlookers, all the journalists.

The letter is there, yes, in the middle of all this disorder. The small letter - very small and prolix - is addressed to: ' Saveria Luciani. Rividella 207. Canale D'Agordo. Province of Belluno '. Saveria is the 19 year-old niece. The letter was written by Albino Luciani on August 23rd., 1978, two days before the beginning of the conclave.

It is a friendly, domestic, simple and colloquial letter, not yet violated by the press.

In one paragraph, the letter states: " ... the place where we will live reminds me very much of the Seminary of Feltre in 1923: a small iron bed, a mattress, a washbasin to wash and a crucifix on the wall. I occupy the room number 60. My neighbour from number 61 is Cardinal Tomasek, the most elderly of the Cardinals. On the another side, in room number 59, is Cardinal Tarancón, from Madrid. I think that it is a very difficult task to find the right person who can solve so many problems of the world of today. Fortunately, I am out of danger ... ".

Three days after this letter, the man knew that the danger was nearer than he had imagined: he became John Paul I for the world, the new Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

For the world, but not for Canale people.

Because they will never resign themselves - perhaps they rely on the complicity of the Pope - to lose this special identity that makes them call him sweetly "don Albino". 

A charming Alpine landscape 

It is necessary to travel through more than one hundred eighty kilometres (from Venice) by roads with cornices. It is necessary to cross impressive tunnels dug in the mountains. It is necessary to be astonished due to the conifers and the waterfalls, the balconies with geraniums and begonias, and the wooden houses sitting at different levels on the Dolomite Alps.

It is necessary to start seeing men with Tyrol hats and short trousers with straps to understand that one is closely to Austria.

It is necessary, finally, to discover the small stores of ski articles, to know that the famous ' Cortina D'Ampezzo ' is  only 50 kilometres away.

Suddenly, in the middle of this trip of marvels - a trip that predisposes to happiness - one turns towards the left side and meets a group of multicolored roofs houses (very similar to our La Boca - n.o.a.: typical quarter of Buenos Aires-) where the Papal and the Italian flags flutter.

The plate of old marble of Carrara placed on the high of the Post Office, says: " Canale D'Agordo. Height 976 metres ". 17 º below zero in Winter, 20 º  maximum in Summer.

From all 1,700 inhabitants, almost 70 have the surname Luciani and are John Paul I relatives.

Many of these inhabitants - especially the oldest – still miss the epoch of the Austro-Hungarian administration. " It was more precise" - they say - "and more effective ", and bear today an enormous exodus - especially from the youngest - while the agriculture continues impoverishing.

Until a short time before, the village was called 'Forno di Canale', in memory of the big furnaces that smelt copper and iron extracted from the mountains.

Even today, in the only church - San Giovanni Battista -, instead of money one is asked to leave " a loaf of bread, for God's love ".

Since 1970, Canale D'Agordo town council is in hands of a group of five men belonging to the left party. The mayor, Toni Cagnati, is 56 years old and communist. He lives in Belluno and only comes to Canale twice a week. The vice-major, Guido Murer, is 39 years old and tells me: " As administrators of Canale, we do not engage in politics. We only engage in  politics at a national level.For 20 years, the mayor of this municipality was Edoardo Luciani, the Pope's brother, of a democratic - Christian orientation. Nowadays, he is a retired teacher and presides over the Chamber of Trade of Belluno. He is a very respected person here ".

Meanwhile, with the first raindrops, the multicolored umbrellas begin appearing on the small square and later they get lost in the narrow and steep little streets of the village.

Actually, nobody worries about the rains at Canale D'Agordo: as in most mountain places, they are unforeseen and furious, and a very  short time later, the immaculate sun replaces them.



Albino, my brother





Teacher Berto is 61 years of age. He also was born - as Albino and their sister, Antonia - in this three-storey house, with grey walls and windows with double glass, surrounded by plantations of beans, pumpkins, sunflowers, plum-trees, small peach and apple trees. A great warehouse of lumber - lumber for the harsh Winters - is just next to the house.

Teacher Berto has nine children and looks very little like his brother, the Pope.

His wife of 34 years, Antonietta Marinelli, nods silently throughout the long explanations of her husband, and she only will break this silence to speak about their son who disappeared two years ago in a lake at Trentino.

The house - number 55 - has cottoned checked curtains in green and white and many clothes drying on the balconies.

There are no luxuries, but everything is excessively well cared for, clean. Nothing is secret in this house. Nothing is hidden. And while Edoardo Luciani runs up to the kitchen, cut small pieces of meat for the stew of  ' tagliatelle al ragù' (popular dish), he returns and answers the telephone, he shows with all naturalness the souvenirs of his brother.


" Last time I met him it was two days before Paul VI's death. It was in Venice. We  had lunch together. As usual, Albino ate very frugally, because he still suffers the consequences of the operation of bile stones one year ago. We spoke about everything. He was full of enthusiasm because he was guest of honour for the Historical Regatta that takes place every year on Canal Grande of Venice. The regatta was on Sunday, September 3rd. The day he left for the conclave in Rome, someone remembered the invitation and he answered: " Be calm. As soon as the Conclave ends, I will come back here ". As a young man, he spent the whole day reading Jules Verne. Actually, my brother was always very fond of reading. When he came to visit us, and we were walking through the mountains, he watched the clock frequently : he did not see the hour of coming back to return to his books. He likes the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. He is fond of Giotto and, among the painters of the 400s, is a fan of Beato Angelico. He has a beautiful reproduction of Beato Angelico's 'Madonna', which he takes with him to all the places where he has to live. I would not be surprised if he now takes it to the Vatican Palace. Our childhood, you know, was humble. The only amusements were to play with ponies that we were improvising with lumber or to run to the cows across the mountains. My mother practically raised us alone. My father was not even present when Albino was born".


He was always in another place trying to find work. He was a bricklayer. In 1914, when the war began, he went to Argentina. Exactly to La Plata. There was an uncle called Federico Tancon living there, since 11 years previously.. My father helped to construct the aqueduct of La Plata. He was employed as a bricklayer at the task of coating. He stayed there a little more than two years. All his life was  hard, of great need. All of us have inherited this kind of resistance facing pain and hunger. My brother said a few days ago : " All this week, journalists have spoken about the poverty of my childhood. But none might never manage to suspect the hunger that I have known ". In winter, in this village, it can snow up to three metres in height. And, you know, hunger and cold never get on well together ... Nowadays, we still have a cousin who is living in Argentina. In province of Santa Fe. His name is Pio De Dea; he is married to an Argentinian and is employed as a workman at a small company of which I do not remember the name. Anyway, what else can I tell you ? From when he was 10 years of age, my brother started demonstrating an exceptional religious faith. Last year, at Coimbra cloisters, he met Sister Lucy, the Fatima seer. It was a very important experience for him. I am glad for the Church that he has been elected but, as a brother, I feel I have lost him ".


Teacher Berto answers the telephone once more. It's from Alitalia, to confirm to him that  all 21 tickets for Rome, for the 21 Luciani, are ready for Thursday, August 31st.

 Edoardo and Antonietta, Ettore and Antonia, Saveria and Laurenzo, Gianbatista and Tiziana, Amalia and Silvestro, Lamberto and Isabella, all the family, will be together with Albino in Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican, when on Sunday, September 3rd, at 6 p.m., he officially starts his pontificate.


The great day 

The family are sharing the first row of banks with President Videla and Raquel Hartridge de Videla, with the King Juan Carlos of Spain and  Queen Sofía, with Baldouin and Fabiola, Grace and Rainier, with the Vice-president Mondale and his wife, with Pierre Trudeau, alone; with the princes of Liechtenstein, the dukes of Luxembourg and the chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Moved, surprised, dressed very humbly and photographed up to the point of weariness.




But they are not the only ones.

Because, behind them, lost almost among the crowd, I see Margarita Molinari, Canale D'Agordo Post Office manager for 18 years, who inked several times the stamp of the village in order that it remained clear on my letter.

I see 92-year-old Giulio Gaio, the teacher who days before showed me the passbook of qualifications of the year 1928 - 5 º degree - of his pupil Albino Luciani. I see Fabrizio, the owner of the only butcher shop of the village, who covered his store with John Paul I's posters.

I see Rinaldo Andrich, the parish Priest, who organized the trip by bus to Rome for 300 people from Canale. I see 74-year-old Angela Deola, whom I found one morning close to the small fountain of  'Piazza della Pieve' (a square in miniature, the only one, with a floor of cobbles with arabesque designs) and who recommended to me the only hostel in the village to spend the night.

I see Toni Cagnati, the mayor. I see 70-year-old Emilio Luciani, the Pope's uncle,  whom I found at the door of the school Giuseppe Xaiz, where Albino studied, and who gave me both carnations that he was carrying in his plastic bag.

I see also Lina, the employee of Canale D'Agordo registry office, who allowed me to photograph Albino Luciani's birth certificate.

I see Remigio, the owner of the only bar; I see Ottavio, the baker, I see Marina, which is employed at the forest office.


All people who, even when they didn't give me much information,  helped me to discover Canale D'Agordo's wise humility.

The same applause that, 22 days before, was saying good-bye to Paul VI definitively, was welcoming now, exactly, at five past six in the afternoon of the first Sunday of September, the entry - on foot - of John Paul I to the  263rd.  pontificate of the Catholic Church.

Shyly, from the Canale sector, some applause was also heard and all raised their hands as a sign of greeting.

John Paul I, with the limit of simplicity that an act of this type allows, started  walking across the square, giving the blessing. When he arrived in front of the Canale sector, he stopped for a long while and, I do not know why, it seemed to all that this blessing was different from others.

Perhaps, in this moment, it has passed everything through Albino Luciani's mind - and, especially, through his heart -: the hunger of his childhood, his first Mass as a Priest, the ponies improvised with lumber, the adventures with Jules Verne, the ten in Geography of teacher Giulio, the cell number 60 of the departments of the Sixtine Chapel and the Historical Regatta at that he had to preside at the Gran Canal of Venice.

Today, exactly at the same time.


Reneé Sallas

( Special correspondent in Italy)



"Clarín", September 2nd, 1978



John Paul I before the press


 One thousand journalists


VATICAN CITY, 1 (from our correspondent, Julio Algañaraz).

--- Pope John Paul I scolded kindly the journalists for concentrating in trivial, secondary aspects, when they inform about the Church, instead of referring to the real meaning of Catholicism to fulfil with the educational function towards the public.

Pope Luciani, 65 years, who has also made journalistic labors parallel to his religious activities, met approximately a thousand journalists during 21 minutes, continuing with a tradition begun by his predecessor, Paul VI.

John Paul I, as in the audience granted on Wednesday to the Cardinals, put aside the official text of his speech and improvised in two occasions. In one of them to 'pull the ears'  of some journalists.

O The First massive Audience

Arranged to meet at eleven in the morning in the immense Blessings Room – called like that because in the middle of it, it is the central balcony from where the Pope blesses the crowd congregated in Saint Peter's Square - the permanent correspondents before the Holy See and the hundreds of special reporters that came to cover Paul VI's funeral and the election of the new Pontiff. We were placed in two large groups, seated, opposite the papal armchair located at the back of the room and raised eleven steps.

Exactly at 11 a.m., two enormous beige-coloured curtains were suddenly opened and John Paul I appeared, smilingly and in very good physical condition.

It was the first large audience of the Pontiff. He began by expressing gratitude to the world press " for the sacrifices and difficulties that you have suffered during August in order to serve the international public opinion ".

John Paul  said that the journalistic labour had allowed  readers, radio-listeners and television viewers to receive, " with the rapidity that demands your responsible and delicate profession, the possibility of taking part in these historical events, their religious dimension and their deep connection with the human values and the expectations of the society of today ".

The papal gratefulness spread, especially, to the journalistic diffusion of these days of the teachings, the work and the example of Paul VI.

The Pope promised " a special attention, a frank, honest and effective collaboration, with the instruments of social communication that you represent with dignity", to make easier their labour.

" It is a promise that we make with pleasure, conscious as we are of the increasingly-important function which the mass media are assuming in the life of the modern man ".

He pointed, immediately, " against the risks of mass-production and of leveling that those media are taking with them, with the consequent threats to the interiority of the individual, to their capacity of personal reflection, for their objectivity of judgment ".

At this point, the Pope suspended the reading of his speech and made his first improvisation.

O " There were no factions " 

" I smiled a lot before the conclave reading articles in several newspapers with good intentions, which I found funny ", he indicated.

" Then I remembered an episode which happened in  Italian journalism ", he added. " It is about Baldassare Avanzini, who was the director of the newspaper ' Fanfulla in that time '.

" It happened during the French/Prussian War ", the Pope continued. " He (Avanzini) gave this order to the journalists : the public is not interested in knowing what Napoleon III said to William of Prussia. What they want is to know if he was wearing trousers  beige or red-coloured trousers, if he smoked a cigarette or not".

In the middle of the anxious general laughs, he took advantage of the anecdote to make the call referred to before in order that the journalists might put aside the secondary topics of the Church.

" Often journalists spend a lot of time studying things of the second importance in the Church ", he added with soft and treble voice that hardly was possible to hear due to the constant noise of photo and cinema cameras.

" I know that the people are interested in these details, but when I was reading the news previous to the conclave, sometimes I had to laugh at the speculations ", he pointed-out. " I hope that, during my pontificate, you not only will inform about the incidental details, but also about the heart of the history of the Church ".

The new Pope chosen by the Sacred College of Cardinals last Saturday in only one day of voting, said that in the conclave there didn't exist any of the factions and manoevres  which he had read-about  in the press before it began.

" There were no factions, there was nothing like that, at all, I assure you ", he stated, putting aside the traditional "we" used by the Popes to speak in the more familiar first person. " I only intended to pray to  God in order that He illuminated me to be able to vote for the right man ".


Big wave of guffaws and applause


On having claimed " an educational function " towards the public " that reads you, listens to you or watches you ", John Paul I asked and prayed " that you also help to safeguard in the present society that deep consideration for God's things and for the mysterious relationship between God and each one of us, which constitutes the sacred dimension of the human reality ".

The Pope comes back to the text of his speech to indicate his conviction of which the journalism was orientating its effort to reach, through the communication " to a more real Communion. It is the goal to which also aspires the heart of the Vicar of That one (Jesus) who taught us to invoke God as the only Father who loves every human being ".

A little later, he made his second improvisation. Mentioning the apostle Saint Paul and his possible reappearance in the world of today, John Paul I said perhaps the Saint would be going to meet Paolo Grassi today (president of the 'RAI', Italian Broadcast television, a Socialist) " to ask him for a little television space ". The witty remark provoked a large wave of guffaws and an ovation.

O A ticket to Mexico

After asking the journalists, when they have to introduce the Church in the future, to do it " with love to the truth and respect for the human dignity, because such it is the aim of any social communication ", he granted his apostolic blessing to those present, who stood up solemnly to receive it.

Immediately, John Paul I moved back amidst general applause. He stopped before our Mexican colleagues, who delivered to him a gift of a folk item (" Tree of  life ") in ceramics, a book about Mexican popular art and a symbolic return ticket to Mexico. The Pope laughed loudly when seeing the air ticket and was grateful for the originality  of the Mexican journalists.




The Pope seen closely









Pope John Paul I appeared, smiling,  from behind a big beige curtain, just from the opposite side from where everybody expected to see him appear.

To reach up to his armchair, he has to pass through the big Blessings Room and he makes it with the agility of professional runner, almost getting into  trouble the few dignitaries who accompany him. He passes laughing between two wings of journalists who, to applaud him, must find with  great urgency a precarious place for their notes, their record players, their photo-cameras.

After the small steps of beige velvet, ascended at  great speed, he sits down on the armchair. His teenager's smile, between shy and extrovert, is devoured by hundreds of photo and cine-cameras.

He begins speaking, but the small white cap is slipping. He arranges it. Now a hoary lock appears. The lock is arranged and he laughs.

His smile is contagious. He speaks and the journalists - who came from the whole world, not accustomed to happy events – smile at him without realizing it.

His words are few, the content is not resounding; but his presence has something that seems to fill up to the last corner of the big room with frescos. When he does not smile fully, he smiles at a half, enough to reveal a vaguely irregular denture that accentuates his air between rascal and paternal. He gives confidence. He seems to say: Listen, if you need something, come here I will help you.

The journalists interrupt him to applaud, to laugh at his jocular comments, they signal to him, greet him from far; they are not tense and have forgotten what it is one of their rules : the " objective separation " in front of the events. This time they are wrapped in an atmosphere that seems to have dominated them. They are standing-up on the chairs to see him better, they are on the pedestals of the columns to be a few centimetres higher; one gives one who was in front of him a hit on the head because he was standing-up on tiptoes.

But there is something strange in the position of the Pope: his feet. They appear inward, hidden under the armchair and covered by the turn of the cassock. They will remain like that during all the time. While the trunk, the head and the arms are in constant movement, the inferior part of the body remains always immobile. Finally, the Pope gets up, gets down the steps - almost running, with an agile step - gesturing and smiling, towards the place from where he had entered.




"Clarín", September 3rd, 1978


John Paul I officially begins his ministry





"Clarín", September 14th, 1978



On the chair, as people requested him




John Paul I and the Press

First Pages of Argentinian Newspapers

Magazines Covers

Articles from the Argentinian press (Part I)

Articles from the Argentinian press (Part II)

Articles from the Argentinian press (Part III) 

Articles from the Italian press


GCM 2001