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THE RELUCTANT POPE
 
He was the first pope to take two names. He never aspired to be the highest official of the Catholic Church.He wanted to pass the cup, so to speak. He simply liked to be called "The Pastor of the Church" and did away with the elaborate ceremony of the papal coronation and the use of the gestatorial chair. His name was Albino Luciani , Pope John Paul I and he served as pontifical head for only 33 days (ironic because Jesus Christ died at the age of 33).

Papa Luciani, as he was affectionately called, was born on 17 October, 1912 in Forno di Canale in the diocese of Belluno in Northern Italy. He was the son of a socialist migrant worker and was ordained priest on 07 July, 1935. Luciani became parish priest in his hometown and taught Catechism for 10 years in the seminary in Belluno. His ministry was considered grass root and pastoral.He showed little or no interest in administration ,finance and politics. By 1969, he was made the patriarch of Venice.

Often called "the smiling pope", John Paul I even published childlike letters to fictional characters like Pinocchio and Figaro. He used these characters in his sermons.
He was probably the humblest,most saintly pope that ever lived .He didnt like to be pope.He was an uncomplicated man who would rather bike his way to the hospital where he visited his poor sick parishioners and gave them part of the church Sunday collections.

With all his kindness , he was not well loved inside the Vatican.He was not a handsome formidable man like John Paul II.He didnt have the pomp and style of Paul VI. He was just a simple small man, who had swollen legs due to his heart condition and walked with an ungraceful limp.

It was said that he knew he wouldnt serve and live long.He often asked ,"why am I here? The foreign pope is coming."
Being head of the whole Catholic Church must have been a heavy burden on his shoulders..
a cross to bear , not a priviledge, not a step up to the hierarchy of leadership.
It's just as well that he died on 28 September, 1978, quite mysteriously at that. His gentle and saintly nature would not have survived through the horrors and disasters of this modern day and age.

As the song of Don MacLean goes, "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you!" (Vincent).

Source: Cornwell, John. A Thief in the Night.Simon and Schuster. New York, USA.1989.


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