(New York, September 21, 2015) Mercy is much in the news now. The Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis, along with the talk of mercy for divorced and remarried Catholics, has meant that many people are discussing the meaning of this virtue. At the same time, the teaching on mercy of an almost forgotten Pope, John Paul I, is gaining increased attention as the Church approaches the Jubilee. The Pope John Paul I Association has begun a petition asking Pope Francis to “proclaim and promote the Magisterium of John Paul I on Mercy during the coming Jubilee Year, and encourage the study of his works.” They are also asking him to expedite his beatification process.
On August 26, the 37th anniversary of Albino Luciani’s election as Pope, Andrea Tornielli wrote for La Reppublica‘s Vatican Insider of the importance of his “words on mercy and humility” in connection with the Jubilee year. He recalled that as a young priest, Luciani was a fervent confessor, and that as a bishop he once told a group of priests on retreat: “It is He who wants to come to meet us, and He does not lose heart even if we want to run away: ‘I want to try again: one, ten, a thousand times…’ Some sinners would not want him in their house. They would even take a gun and kill him and not hear any more about Him. No matter. He is waiting. Always. And it is never too late. He is like this, he is made like this . . . he is Father. A father who waits at the door.”
At the Mass commemorating the anniversary in Luciani’s hometown of Canale d’Agordo, mayor Rinaldo De Rocco spoke of another side of the late pope’s understanding of mercy. “Pope Francis has decided that this is the Year of Mercy,” he said. “Papa Luciani had already made these words his own 40 years ago. He was a merciful person: [as a priest and bishop] he used to go visit the sick and help the poor, he would bring a comforting word of greeting to the workers. He was a precursor of Pope Francis. And it delights us to see this Pope retrace the stages of Papa Luciani’s journey.”
At the Mass, it was also announced that the Positio, the last necessary piece of documentation for John Paul I’s beatification process, has been completed, and the Vatican can now begin studying his life for evidence of heroic virtue.
The Pope John Paul I Association, founded in 2013 and based in New York, is collecting signatures for a petition to the Pope that says, in part:
“In his audiences, Papa Luciani taught the world how to cultivate faith and hope in childlike humility, the better to trust in God’s mercy. Earlier in his letter to Jesus, he had said: ‘Your whole manner is that — this is my impression — of someone more concerned with the suffering that sin produces in the sinners than the offense it gives to God. When you are instilling the hope of forgiveness, You seem to say: “You can’t even imagine the pleasure that your conversion gives me!”’ (Illustrissimi)
“Most famously, he stressed the maternal quality of God’s mercy: ‘God has such tender love for use, even more tender than the love that a mama has for her children, Isaiah says.’(Sept. 13th audience). ‘Little children, when they are sick, have one more reason to be loved by their mothers, and so do we: if we are sick with wickedness, if we have gone astray, then we have one more reason to be loved by the Lord.’ (Sept 10th Angelus).
“Pope John Paul I’s teachings have been almost forgotten by the world, but they deserve to be known by everyone for their theological and spiritual wisdom. We believe the result will be a greater understanding of mercy and a greater devotion to this Servant of God.”
Dr. Lori Pieper, a historian, and one of the directors of the association, says, “John Paul II’s encyclical Rich in Mercy will be frequently talked about during the coming year. But few people know about the influence that John Paul I had on his successor’s ideas. In 1979, a year after his death, John Paul II reminded the people of Canale d’Agordo that their Pope had seen God not only as a father but, following the Old Testament prophets, as a mother as well. In 1980, he developed this idea at length in Rich in Mercy, and said in the conclusion: ‘like the prophets, let us appeal to that love which has maternal characteristics and which, like a mother, follows each of her children, each lost sheep.’ He later repeated this insight in a number of ways in the time leading up to the proclamation of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000.”
The Association timed the announcement of the petition for period approaching the anniversary of John Paul I’s death on September 28. They will close it and submit it to Pope Francis later this fall. It can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/john-paul-i.
For more information or an interview, contact Dr. Lori Pieper. The Association’s web site is popejpi.org.
Contact: Dr. Lori Pieper
The Pope John Paul I Association
30 W. 190th St., Apt. 6N
Bronx, NY 10468
(646) 938-0432 or
About 850 words