Pope Francis creates foundation to promote John Paul I’s teachings

Venerable John Paul I. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis has instituted a Vatican foundation to promote the thought and teachings of Venerable John Paul I, who was pope for 33 days in 1978.

The John Paul I foundation was formally established with a papal rescript Feb. 17, according to the Vatican announcement this afternoon.

According to a note signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the foundation’s purpose “is to promote and disseminate awareness of the thought, works, and example of Pope John Paul I.”

Often called “the smiling pope,” John Paul I died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, 1978, after just 33 days in office. A priority of his short pontificate was carrying forward the work of the Second Vatican Council.

But even before he was elected Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani was known for his humility, his emphasis on spiritual poverty, and his dedication to teaching the faith in an understandable manner. 

He was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2017.

With the February rescript, Francis nominated Cardinal Parolin president of the John Paul I Foundation, which is based within the Secretariat of State.

In an article in L’Osservatore Romano April 28, Parolin wrote that “Pope John Paul I was and remains a reference point in the history of the universal Church, the importance of which – as  St. John Paul II pointed out – is inversely proportional to the duration of his very short pontificate.”

The new foundation, Parolin said, “can dutifully fulfil the task not only of protecting all the heritage of John Paul I’s writings and work but also of encouraging the systematic study and dissemination of his thought and spirituality. All the more motivated by the consideration of how his figure and message are extraordinarily current.”

As the foundation’s president, Parolin nominated the six members of the administrative council, which will have a five-year term, among them Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

Catholic Italian journalist Stefania Falasca was named vice president of the foundation. Falasca is vice-postulator of John Paul I’s cause for canonization and a leading scholar on his life.

In a 2017 interview, Falasca told CNA that St. Pope Paul VI, Luciani’s predecessor, considered the then-cardinal to be “one of the most advanced theologians of the time.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation.”

In 2008, on the 30th anniversary of John Paul I’s death, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, when the apostle writes: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”

Benedict said this biblical text brought to mind John Paul I, who chose the same episcopal motto as St. Charles Borromeo: Humilitas. 

John Paul I’s simplicity, according to Benedict, “was a means of solid and fruitful instruction, which, thanks to the gift of an excellent memory and vast culture, was enriched by numerous citations of church and secular authors.”