John Paul I.

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Albino Luciani as Patriarch of Venice in 1969

John Paul I , real name Albino Luciani (born October 17, 1912 in Forno di Canale , † September 28, 1978 in Vatican City ), was succeeded Paul VI on August 26, 1978 . elected pope . Since he died that same year, 1978 went down in history as a three-pope year . His successor was John Paul II.

In Italy he is remembered as “ Il Papa del sorriso ” (German: “Pope of the smile”) and “ Il sorriso di Dio ” (German: “The smile of God”).


As a young priest, 1936
As Patriarch of Venice with Pope Paul VI. , 1973
Pope coat of arms
Pope John Paul I speaks from the window to the believers in St. Peter's Square

Albino Luciani was born in Forno di Canale in northern Italy (Canale d'Agordo since 1964, near Belluno ) and came from a poor background. In 1923, at the age of eleven, he entered the boys' seminary in Feltre , a boarding school where boys were prepared for life as priests .

After 1928-1935, the seminary had visited on the "Gregorian" in Belluno, he received on 7 July 1935 ordination . He then worked for two years as a chaplain in his hometown before he was appointed Vice Rector of the "Gregoriano" in 1937, a position he held until 1947. There he taught theology. On November 23, 1946, Luciani faced the disputation of his doctoral thesis and was awarded a doctorate in theology magna cum laude . He took on various functions in his home diocese, including a. as Director of the Catechetical Office and Pro-Vicar General. He has published some notable publications, including a. Catechesi in briciole and Illustrissimi ( Eng . You very devoted ), a collection of letters to important personalities - from Jesus Christ to Pinocchio . On December 27, 1958 he was in the course of the first episcopal ordinations of the new Pope John XXIII. Bishop of Vittorio Veneto ; Co- consecrators were Girolamo Bartolomeo Bortignon , Bishop of Padua, and Gioacchino Muccin , Bishop of Belluno e Feltre. Pope Paul VI appointed him on December 15, 1969 Patriarch of Venice and took him on March 5, 1973 as a cardinal priest with the titular church of San Marco in the college of cardinals .


After the death of Pope Paul VI. Luciani was elected Pope in the fourth ballot on August 26, 1978 after a one-day conclave in which 111 cardinals participated, allegedly with 99 votes. This conclave was the first in which cardinals aged 80 and over were no longer allowed to participate. The choice of Luciani, presumably favored by the Archbishop of Florence , Cardinal Benelli , came as a surprise to the world public and probably also to himself. His opponent in the conclave was the conservative Archbishop of Genoa , Giuseppe Siri , who had already been considered papabile (suitable for pope) in 1958 .

He chose his papal name because he inherited the legacy of his two predecessors, John XXIII. and Paul VI. , namely the results of the Second Vatican Council (in which he had also participated as bishop), wanted to preserve. His aim was to soften the contradiction that was being constructed between the two in public opinion. The simple reason for his choice of name was, however, that John XXIII. him bishop and Paul VI. had appointed him archbishop or cardinal. It is also believed that the Venetian basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo , the burial place of the Doges, inspired him. He was the first Pope to have a double name, and he was the only Pope to date to add the I. to his new name himself . Before that, ordinal numbers were only added from the second bearer of the name.

Luciani before the Conclave in 1978

He was solemnly inaugurated on September 3, 1978 - on the same day as his great role model Gregory the Great in 590. As the first pope of modern times, he renounced the traditional pompous coronation with the tiara and settled in with the celebration of a mass Introduce office. He also initially rejected the use of the Sedia gestatoria (the traditional palanquin of the popes), but after persuasion by the Curia he used it four times, at three general audiences and the traditional occupation of the Lateran basilica ( S. Giovanni in Laterano ), the actual church of the Bishop of Rome.

With his friendly demeanor (“The Smiling Pope”), the Pope immediately won sympathy, even among non-Catholics. As the first Pope, he no longer used the salutation “we” ( pluralis majestatis ) for himself in official letters and addresses , but “I”. By renouncing the papal coronation and the majesty plural, he also set the standard for his successors. In general, he moved away from many "small" traditions and customs and thus removed the distance of the high office in favor of closer proximity to the people around him. He was the first Pope to use a telephone himself and to renounce the kneeling of the Swiss Guard as he passed the Vatican.

In his short 33-day pontificate he did not have the time to travel, canonize, submit a government program, or publish encyclicals or the like. In his few speeches he confessed without reservation to the teachings of his predecessors. Luciani still had his own profile that was independent of his predecessors. A few treatises published as early as 1947 reveal it. On September 10, 1978, in an Angelus address, he spoke of God as father ( papa ), "but he is even more a mother" ( E 'papà; più ancora è madre. )

Brief pontificates have occurred several times in history, for example in Marcellus II. , Urban VII. Or Leo XI. The grave inscription was coined for the latter: “ ostensus magis quam datus ” (more shown than given). After the death of "Papa Luciani" this was quoted again a lot.


After a pontificate of only 33 days, John Paul I died on the night of September 28-29, 1978. He was buried in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica . An autopsy of his body was denied by both his family and the Vatican. His death quickly gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories .

The deceased was found by the head of the papal household, Sister Vincenza, around five o'clock in the morning in the bed of his bedroom; she then notified the private secretaries Diego Lorenzi and John Magee . It is proven that John Magee informed Cardinal Secretary of State Jean-Marie Villot about the death of the Pope at 5:37 a.m. Then Renato Buzzonetti, the Vatican's doctor, and Da Ros, the Pope's personal doctor in Venice, were informed. The time of death was estimated to be September 28, around 11 p.m.

According to the official version, the corpse was found sitting upright in bed, smiling and with a print in his hands. John Paul I had had a heart condition for several years. In addition, on September 28, a change in the weather , combined with an autumn storm, could have had an impact on the Pope's condition.

Pope's tomb

The Austrian pathologist Hans Bankl examined the published sources in 1990 and assessed them in his book Many Paths Lead to Eternity . According to him, no reliable conclusions can be drawn from the vague information. He cites a blood clot dragged from the leg veins into the pulmonary artery or a heart attack as a likely explanation for the sudden death . He specifies this by referring to a possible myocardial infarction - this is the cause that is also on the official death certificate - although it is unproven because of the lack of an autopsy . According to this, a cardiac arrhythmia including pulmonary embolism with acute failure of the right ventricle would have led to death. There is nothing to be said for poisoning , as there are no signs of it, neither from the illness nor from the condition of the dead or the circumstances of death. Bankl believes that there are plausible reasons why an autopsy was not approved: “An autopsy could only have had one of two possible results: either death from a natural cause in a previously sick person. But how could the conclave have chosen him? It would be an admission that one was wrong! The other outcome, a violent death, would have been even worse! So the decision was made to leave everything unclear and in return accepted the emergence of rumors. ”The restrictive information policy of the Vatican has indeed given free rein to much speculation, but on the other hand it has prevented the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church embodied by the papacy was incorporated into these hypotheses in a partisan manner.

conspiracy theories

Statue in front of the Cathedral of Vittorio Veneto, 2013

In 1984 David Yallop published In the Name of God? , in which he claims that John Paul I was poisoned because he wanted to expose and eliminate corrupt machinations of the Vatican Bank . As Patriarch of Venice, these actions, which shied the light of the public, were directly related to the Banco Ambrosiano affair with Paul Marcinkus , Roberto Calvi and Michele Sindona and their connection to Licio Gelli's Masonic lodge Propaganda Due ( P2).

Yallop also brought Cardinal Secretary of State Jean-Marie Villot and Cardinal John Cody , Archbishop of Chicago , into connection with the death of the Pope, as both were supposed to be removed from their offices. This hypothesis, which u. a. was taken up by Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather III and found its way into the novel Sistine Conspiracy by Philipp Vandenberg , holds up to this day.

American ufologists speculate that John Paul I might have been murdered because he wanted to reveal the third secret of Fátima . Shortly before his death, UFOs were sighted over Rome. Others claim that extraterrestrials , Jesuits or Freemasons were behind the Pope's death.

The British journalist John Cornwell came after an intensive investigation into the death of John Paul I, which he carried out at the suggestion of the Vatican and with the support of John Paul II from October 1987 to May 1988, to the conclusion that the murder hypothesis was wrong. Accordingly, John Paul I was overwhelmed by the burden of his unexpected and unwanted office, very ill, inadequate medical care, humanly lonely and full of premonitions and longings for death.


In 2012, the Vatican State Philately Office issued a stamp for Albino Luciani's 100th birthday.

In April 2020, Pope Francis established a foundation in honor of Pope John Paul I with the aim of deepening knowledge about "the person, thought and teaching" of Albino Luciani.

Beatification process

The beatification process for John Paul I was not opened in 2003 because of his short tenure as usual popes in Rome, but in his home diocese of Belluno-Feltre. The Roman phase of the beatification process was opened on January 3, 2007, after the diocesan phase was solemnly concluded on November 10, 2006 in the Cathedral of Belluno.

On November 8, 2017, Pope Francis recognized him as a heroic degree of virtue as an essential prerequisite for a beatification.


As Albino Luciani:

  • Dear friend. Letters to famous people. St. Benno-Verlag, Leipzig 1981.
  • The example of the Samaritan. The retreats of Johannes Paul I. Verlag Styria, Graz 1982.
  • My legacy. Verlag Styria, Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1986, ISBN 3-222-11677-6 .
  • In the spirit of Jesus. The example of St. Alfonso Liguori. Herder Publishing House, Freiburg 1987.
  • For the sake of our children. Styria Publishing House, Graz 1992.
  • Our father. Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer. Styria Publishing House, Graz 1995.
  • Ave Maria. Thoughts on the Mother of the Lord. Verlag Styria, Graz 1997.
  • I think. Thoughts on the creed of the church. Verlag Styria, Graz 1997.
  • Your devoted Albino Luciani: Letters to personalities. Verlag Neue Stadt, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-87996-362-2 .
  • Role models. People we can learn from. Styria Publishing House, Graz 1998.
  • Holy times. Meditations for the church year. Styria Publishing House, Graz 1999.
  • On the value of the family. Verlag Styria, Graz 2001, ISBN 3-222-12859-6 .

As John Paul I:

  • Message of goodness and hope. The addresses of his pontificate. Verlag Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer 1987.
  • Give the world a smile. Words of Joy by Johannes Paul I. Herder Verlag, Freiburg 1986.
  • Said with a smile. Selected texts for each day of the year. New City Publishing House, Munich 1998.



Description of death:

  • Hans Bankl : Many roads lead into eternity. Fate and end of extraordinary personalities. 3. Edition. Verlag Wilhelm Maudrich, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-85175-574-X .
  • Victor J. Willi: In the name of the devil? Reply to Yallop's bestseller “In the Name of God?” 5th edition. Christiana-Verlag, Stein am Rhein 2000. (EA: 1987, ISBN 3-7171-0902-2 )
  • John Cornwell : Like a thief in the night. The death of Pope John Paul I. From d. Engl. By Klaus Pemsel. Paul Zolnay Verlag, Vienna a. Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-552-04111-7 . EA: A Thief in the Night. The Mysterious Death of Pope John Paul I , Simon & Schuster, New York 1989. (The book examines the truth and credibility of the conspiracy theories and ultimately rejects David A. Yallop's theses.)

Novels and Conspiracy Theories:

Film adaptations

Web links

Commons : John Paul I  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. So Ph. Levillain in the Dictionnaire historique de la papauté. Paris 1994 to Jean Paul I.
  2. at 2:36: "qui sibi nomen imposuit Ioannis Pauli primi."
  3. John Paul I, Angelus Address, September 10, 1978; Vatican homepage, Italian , English , accessed February 27, 2013.
  4. Michael Barkun : A Culture of Conspiracy. Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America . University of California Press, Berkeley 2013, p. 135.
  5. John Cornwell: Like a Thief in the Night. The death of Pope Johannes Paul I. Paul Zolnay Verlag, Vienna / Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-552-04111-7 , p. 385.
  6. ^ : Pope Francis founds a foundation in honor of John Paul I , April 28, 2020.
  7. ^ Promulgazione di Decreti della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi. In: Daily Bulletin. Holy See Press Office, November 9, 2017, accessed November 9, 2017 (Italian).
predecessor Office successor
Giovanni Cardinal Urbani Coat of arms of Albino Luciani, svg Patriarch of Venice
Marco Cardinal Cé
Paul VI John paul 1 coa.svg Pope
John Paul II