Thursday, December 1, 2011
Papal Profile: Pope John Paul I
Over the next 10 years Father Luciani proved himself to be a highly intelligent and devout priest, earning a doctorate in Sacred Theology, the office of Secretary of the Diocesan Synod and the title of Monsignor. He was a renowned catechist and was praised by Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, who was later elected to the Holy See as Pope John XXIII. It was this pope who appointed Msgr. Luciani Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, Luciani was at first reluctant, but he finally agreed and was consecrated by Pope John on December 27, 1958 who advised him on the differences between being a teacher and being a shepherd, stressing the need for humility, which Luciani carried with him for the rest of his life.
His reputation grew high enough that in 1969 he was appointed to the See of Venice. On his way, he picked up some hitch-hikers who were worried about their new shepherd, and after talking to Bishop Luciani, unaware of who he was or why he was going to Venice, said, "We wish a priest like you would be made patriarch!". Bishop Luciani took possession of the Patriarchate of Venice in 1970. During his time there, Cardinal Luciani became known as a great speaker and a great writer. He was especially known for the letters he wrote to historical persons or fictional characters as a way of presenting moral lessons. Among those Cardinal Luciani wrote to in these letters (later collected into a book) were King David of Israel, King Lempel (from the book of Proverbs), the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, the Tyrolean patriot Andreas Hofer and Jesus Himself. Cardinal Luciani proved an effective and popular Patriarch of Venice. Only 8 years later, Pope Paul VI died and the cardinals assembled in the Vatican to elect a new successor of St Peter. Of those considered likely candidates, the Patriarch of Venice was on few, if any, lists. Cardinal Luciani was not widely known, and at the start of the conclave, no candidate seemed to stand out. However, as vote after vote was taken, the votes for Luciani increased each time until, on the fourth vote on the first day, he was elected, taking the innovative name "Ioannes Paulus Primus" to recognize both of his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI.