ROME – Nearly 18 years after the opening of the canonization cause of Albino Luciani, better known as Pope John Paul I, his beatification could finally be green-lighted this fall with the approval of a miracle that has been presented of a scientifically inexplicable healing of an Argentine girl.
In an article published in Italian newspaper Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops, by Stefania Falasca – a journalist, Luciani biographer, and the vice-postulator of his cause – said process has reached the final stage and has just one more hurdle to face with the final approval of the miracle.
Born as Albino Luciani Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Luciani was elected pope at the age of 65, taking the name Pope John Paul to honor both of his immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and St. Paul VI.
It shocked the world when he was found dead the morning of Sept. 30, 1978, just 33 days after his election. The Vatican announced that he died of a heart attack, but his sudden and unexpected death sparked decades of speculation and conspiracy theories about what really happened during his final hours.
In 2017, around the same time Luciani’s cause was advanced by Pope Francis, Falasca published a book titled Pope Luciani, Chronicle of a Death, which laid those conspiracies to rest using various testimonies, including the two sisters who found him dead, and documents from the Vatican Apostolic Archives.
His cause for canonization formally opened in November 2003, 25 years after his death, and was formally submitted to the Vatican in October 2016.
A year later, in November 2017, Pope Francis approved of Luciani’s heroic virtue, allowing him to be declared “venerable,” and moving him forward on the path to beatification.
Around that same time, according to Falasca, the Diocese of Belluno, which is overseeing the beatification cause, concluded its investigation into the miraculous healing of a young girl from Buenos Aires who suffered from a severe form of encephalopathy, a disease that affects brain function, leading to an altered mental state in which the person is confused and acts abnormally.
The alleged miracle happened in 2011, and the Diocese of Belluno conducted its investigation of the healing in 2016, concluding its inquiry around the same time Luciani’s cause was being advanced.
Following the diocesan investigation, which found the healing to be miraculous, it was brought to a board of medical consultants in October 2019, and they reached the same conclusion: There was no medical or scientific explanation for the girl’s recovery.
The case was then presented to a panel of theological experts, who approved of the miracle in May 2021.
A final vote on the validity of the miracle will take place in October during a meeting with the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for Saints Causes, though it is widely expected that they will also approve of the miracle.
Should the miracle pass that final hurdle, it will then be presented to the pope, who is expected to recognize the miracle and issue a decree allowing for his beatification and a date can be set, likely for 2022.
Speaking to Crux, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, the postulator of Luciani’s cause, said they are at “the end of the process,” and voiced his confidence that “all will go well” in October.
“When the pope decides, we can have this great joy of being able to venerate him on the altars,” he said, noting that since the miraculous healing in question comes from Argentina, “I think it is also dear to the Holy Father’s heart.”
Even though the miracle will likely be approved of this fall, Stella said winter beatifications are “rather rare,” meaning the beatification date will most likely be sometime in 2022.
“We trust the discernment of the Holy Father, it is he who has the authority, after the approval of the miracle, to decide the date and time and place of the eventual place of the future beatification,” he said.
Recalling the figure of Pope John Paul I, Stella insisted that he is not a distant memory of the past, but his life, teachings, and witness are also valuable for today’s world.
Were Luciani alive today, “I think he would say have trust in God, look to the heart of God, look to his face, cultivate faith, be faithful to your baptismal commitment.”
“He would speak with simplicity and humility, but he would also arrive to the hearts of the people of today. He would speak of the goodness and mercy of God, which is a great beautiful theme also for Pope Francis,” Stella said.
Stella celebrated a special Mass Aug. 26 in the small Italian town of Canale d’Agordo, the birthplace of Luciani, marking the 43rd anniversary of his election as pope Aug. 26, 1978.
During his homily, Stella argued that Luciani’s writings as pope, although his papacy was brief, are a point of “spiritual reference” for the crisis the world is currently facing as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the global insecurities it has caused.
To this end, he referred to John Paul I’s teachings on faith, hope, and charity, which were the topics of the late pope’s general audience speeches during his month-long papacy.
These, Stella said, “are those virtues which, in fact, while not magically taking away fear and suffering, unite us deeply to Christ and make us stronger in bearing adversity, without becoming overwhelmed.”
“Listening to those verbs, each one of us can think about concrete people and situations which in the past have brought acts of goodness, or which now wait for us to remember them, making them instruments of love that God has for each man and woman,” he said.
As the world celebrates John Paul I, Stella urged faithful to allow themselves to be guided “by his words and his example as a pastor and witness of faith, so that in the troubles and adversity of today, we can feel more clearly the call that Christ directs to us to follow him and to reevaluate the priorities of our lives.”
Stella closed his homily praying that, by living the virtues taught by John Paul I, each person would become “a precious gift for the Church,” and voicing hope that Luciani “would soon be raised to the glory of the altars.”
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