Pope John Paul I Pope John Paul I 

Cardinal Parolin: Blessed Pope John Paul I was 'an effective peacemaker'

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, praises Pope John Paul I's immense impact as a peacemaker during his brief, 34-day pontificate, as he presents a new book entitled "The Magisterium of John Paul I. A historical and theological study through archival papers".

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"Although his pastoral governance could not unfold over time, John Paul I contributed in a short time to strengthening the design of a Church that with the Council went back to its sources and from its evangelical origins aims to serve the world, becoming propter hominem, close to human realities and their thirst for charity, remaining today and always an inalienable point of reference in the universal Church."

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, President of the John Paul I Vatican Foundation, stressed this about Pope John Paul I, whose pontificate lasted only 34 days in 1978.

He was speaking on Tuesday afternoon at the presentation of the book "The Magisterium of John Paul I. A historical and theological study through archival papers", edited by Stefania Falasca and Flavia Tudini, which took place at the Ca' Foscari University in Venice.

John Paul I Vatican Foundation

Pope Francis established the John Paul I Vatican Foundation on 17 February 2020 with Rescriptum ex audientia so that the patrimony of Albino Luciani's writings could be preserved, and the value of his theological, ecclesial, cultural and spiritual legacy could be fully recovered and studied. 

In these three years, Cardinal Parolin recalled, the Vatican Foundation has taken fundamental steps to lay the foundations to favour research, studies, in-depth study and divulgation of Albino Luciani's legacy at an international level. Fundamental steps have been taken with the acquisition and reordering of the papers of the Private Archive and, still in progress, the recovery of the volumes of the personal library at the Library of the Patriarchate of Venice, for which the Vatican Foundation has prepared a cataloguing and research project.

He highlighted how the studies in light of all these efforts have shown how during his pontificate "the priorities of a Pontiff who moved the Church forward along the backbone of the Council's directions were manifested: the return to the sources of the Gospel and a renewed missionary spirit, episcopal collegiality, service in ecclesial poverty, dialogue with the contemporary world, the search for unity with the Christian Churches, interreligious dialogue, and the search for peace." 

Magisterial legacy 

The Cardinal expressed his gratitude to present the studies promoted by the John Paul I Vatican Foundation's studies, "that today make it possible to promote international research and in-depth study of the Magisterial legacy of John Paul I in light of archival sources." 

He recalled how in collaboration with the Department of Dogmatic Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University on 13 May, last year, the Vatican Foundation promoted the first study conference on the basis of archival documents entirely dedicated to the Magisterium of John Paul I, "a magisterium that demands to be investigated from the perspective of his papers, the acquisition of which has opened up a new direction in the study of his work and teachings."

With regard to the pontificate of John Paul I, the Holy Father Francis observed "that the Successor of Peter is "the rock of consistency", on which the Church that Christ himself builds, with the gift of His grace, takes on unity" and then pointed out how "precisely because of the faith of the Christian people, to which John Paul I belonged, he was able to turn a prophetic gaze on the wounds and evils of the world, showing how much peace is also dear to the heart of the Church." 

The thirty-four days of his pontificate, the Foundation President suggested, sought peace, following in Christ's footsteps.

John Paul I was actively engaged in fostering reconciliation and fraternity between peoples, inviting collaboration to "safeguard and increase peace in this troubled world", and "stem the "blind violence that only destroys and sows ruin and mourning" is, together with ecumenical and inter-religious commitment, placed as a priority in John Paul I's programmatic discourse.

Efforts of John Paul I

John Paul I, he recalled, made numerous appeals in favour of peace in the Middle East.

He first recalled the Angelus appeal of 10 September 1978, in which he called the leaders of different faiths to prayer for peace, quoting the Koran together with the Holy Scriptures.

During the General Audience of 20 September he addressed the faithful in this way: "In these moments," Blessed John Paul I said, "an example comes to us from Camp David. Yesterday the American Congress burst into applause that we also heard when Carter quoted the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers". I truly hope that that applause and those words will enter the hearts of all Christians, especially we Catholics, and make us truly peacemakers and peacemakers."

Collaboration with US President Jimmy Carter

These are considerations that had also led him to write directly to the President of the United States, Cardinal Parolin pointed out, noting that his peacebuilding activities took concrete form in two circumstances during his brief pontificate.

The first was in the letter of 20 September, and was addressed to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conferences of Argentina and Chile, when the armed clash between the two countries over the border dispute that had arisen over sovereignty over the islands in the Beagle Channel, "which seemed imminent, was avoided thanks to the mediation of the Holy See."

"But certainly the international theme that runs through the entire pontificate is the support for the peace talks that from 5 to 17 September involved US President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David."

Already at the first General Audience on 6 September focusing on humility, Cardinal Parolin noted that Pope John Paul I asked those present "for an intention that is very close to my heart... These conversations pave the way for a just and complete peace. John Paul I stated significantly, 'that is, to the satisfaction of all parties to the conflict. Complete, without leaving any issue unresolved: the problem of the Palestinians, the security of Israel, the Holy City of Jerusalem.' 

On 10 September, Pope John Paul I spoke at length about the summit, dedicating the Sunday Angelus to its success, during his well-known Angelus where he said that "God is Father, even more so, He is Mother,"

In that address, he emphasised how the three leaders - Carter, Sadat and Begin - had prayed for the happy outcome of the talks. The Pope's endorsement was echoed in the channels of diplomacy.

A few days later, on 17 September, after thirteen days of intense and at times dramatic negotiations, which had repeatedly given the impression of not being resolved positively, the summit, the Cardinal explained, came to a conclusion with the signing in Washington of a Framework for Peace in the Middle East and a Framework for the conclusion of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Gratitude for his prayers

On 17 September, President Carter wrote to the Pope to inform him of the results achieved, declaring that he had received "great inspiration from your prayers for the Camp David summit and for peace in the Middle East".

Pope John Paul I, on 21 September, Cardinal Parolin continued, personally wrote a letter to President Carter that concluded as follows: 'Be assured that the Holy See will continue, as in the past, to follow with deep interest the efforts to achieve this goal. It is ready to collaborate by every possible means compatible with its activity. Likewise, we will continue to raise Our prayers for the peace that is so necessary for the countries of the Middle East and the entire world." 

On 4 September, receiving the more than one hundred representatives of the international missions, he had also taken up the same motifs, emphasising that 'our heart is open to all peoples, to all races' and stating: 'Of course, we do not have miraculous solutions to the great world problems.

What is done in See of Peter impacts whole world

However, we can bring something truly precious: a spirit that helps to unravel these problems and place them in the essential dimension, that of universal charity and openness to transcendent values...'. so that,' he had reminded them, on 3 September, during his homily at the Mass at the beginning of his pontificate, 'the Church, humble messenger of the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth, may contribute to creating a climate of justice, brotherhood, solidarity and hope without which the world cannot live'.

Just on 23 May 1973, while celebrating in Venice the tenth anniversary of St John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris, the then-Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani, offered words of wisdom.

"Let us not consider our hopes as 'utopian' or outdated," he said. "A realist is not one who believes we can go on as before, but one who 'perceives the dynamism of a world that wants to live more fraternally"; one who realises that "at stake are the lives of poor peoples, civil peace in developing countries and world peace". Conflicts of interest between state and state; they will always erupt, but wars will never be able to resolve them."

"We need to get rid of the old conceptions of war," he continued, "as a means of resolving disagreements: we need to turn history around and prepare for the times when all war will be outlawed. Here, then, we are faced with gigantic and terrifying armaments. They are a huge slap in the face to the citizens of the state, who could have schools, hospitals and better services instead of expensive weapons. But they are also a slap in the face to the underdeveloped peoples deprived of indispensable aid."

"In this perspective, today, as then," the Vatican Secretary of State highlighted, "what is done in the See of Peter, concerns the entire world."

Holiness and prayers for peace

"Indeed, that world that does not expect political agendas from the Church, nor a choice of blocs or borders," he said, "but the courage of dialogue, of prudence, of parresia in speaking to the powerful with the strength of faith, of holiness, of prayer. The arms that matter most!" The only effective arms in a troubled age, which even today, under the delusions of power, under aridity and indifference hides an unlimited thirst for justice and peace. 

And of these instruments, Cardinal Parolin stated, the pastoral government of John Paul I "has borne indelible witness."

Despite only leading the Church briefly, Cardinal Parolin suggested that in only a short time, John Paul I strengthened the Church and its service to the world in charity and as an "inalienable point of reference."

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23 May 2023, 15:30