VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has signed a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope John Paul I, clearing the way for his beatification.
The Italian pope served only 33 days as pontiff; he died in the papal apartments Sept. 28, 1978, at the age of 65, shocking the world and a Church that had just mourned the death of St. Paul VI.
The Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision along with a number of other sainthood decrees Oct. 13.
In the sainthood cause of Pope John Paul I, the approved miracle involved a young girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who developed a severe case of acute encephalitis and uncontrollable and life-threatening brain seizures, and eventually entered septic shock.
After doctors told family members her death was “imminent,” the local priest encouraged the family, nurses and others to pray to the late pope for his intercession, according to the website of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. A panel of experts studying the cause determined there was no scientific explanation for her complete recovery in 2011 and that it could be attributed to the late pope’s intercession.
The Vatican did not immediately announce a date for the beatification ceremony.
Although his was one of the shortest papacies in history, Pope John Paul left a lasting impression on the Church that fondly remembers him as “the smiling pope.”
His papal motto, “Humilitas” (“Humility”) not only emphasized a Christian virtue, but also reflected his down-to-earth personality and humble beginnings.
Born Albino Luciani in the small Italian mountain town of Canale D’Agordo Oct. 17, 1912, the future pope and his two brothers and one sister lived in poverty and sometimes went to bed hungry.
Despite his weak health and poverty, his father encouraged him to enter the minor seminary. He did so but would return to his hometown in the summers and often was seen working in the fields in his black cassock.
He was ordained a priest in 1935 and was appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto in December 1958 by St. John XXIII. More than 10 years later, he was named patriarch of Venice by St. Paul VI and was created a cardinal in 1973.
During his time as patriarch of Venice, then-Cardinal Luciani was known for his dedication to the poor and the disabled, once calling on priests in his diocese to sell gold and silver objects for a center for people with disabilities. Leading by example, he started the fund drive by putting up for auction a pectoral cross and gold chain — given to him by St. John XXIII — that had once belonged to Pope Pius XII.
His surprise election, after St. Paul VI’s death, did not sway him from continuing his humble manner of living, such as rejecting the use of the traditional papal tiara and calling his first Mass as pope the “inauguration” of his papal ministry rather than a coronation.
“Let us try to improve the Church by becoming better ourselves,” he said Sept. 13, 1978. “Each of us and the whole Church could recite the prayer I am accustomed to reciting: ‘Lord, take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become as you want me to be.'”