Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Habemus Papam!
His Holiness Pope John Paul I

Thirty years ago, at 6:24 p.m. (Rome time) on Saturday, August 26, 1978, smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel appeared, following the fourth ballot in the Papal Conclave of August 1978.

Soon thereafter, Pericle Cardinal Felici, as the ranking Cardinal Deacon, stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and announced to the world, "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam!" I announce to you a great joy. We have a Pope! He then announced that the Patriarch of Venice, Albino Cardinal Luciani had been selected as the Successor of Peter and that he was taking the name "John Paul the First" in honor of his immediate predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. The papacy was not an office that Cardinal Luciani had sought or wanted, but when asked immediately after his election, he humbly stated, "I accept."

Pope John Paul I was soon to be known as "Il Papa del Sorriso" (The Smiling Pope) and "Il Sorriso di Dio" (God's Smile). Not only was he the first pope to take two names, but he was to have an immediate impact in other respects as well. Consistent with his motto, "Humilitas," the new pope declined the use of the royal "we" in his speeches and writings, and he resisted the use of the sedia gestatoria, the portable chair or throne on which the pope was traditionally carried, as well as the papal tiara. Although Pope John Paul I eventually consented to use of the sedia gestatoria on occasion in order that the people might more easily see him, he declined to have a solemn coronation ceremony, preferring instead to have a Mass of Inauguration, as was used by his successors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Remembering the Smiling Pope

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