In Remembrance of John Paul I

For the 25th Anniversary of His Election

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave at today’s general audience in Paul VI Hall. He dedicated the address to the memory of his predecessor, Albino Luciani (1912-1978).

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1. In the late afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 26, 1978, my venerated predecessor John Paul I was elected. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of that event.

I evoke those moments today, which I had the joy of experiencing with profound emotion. I recall how his words touched profoundly the hearts of people who filled St. Peter’s Square. From the moment of his first appearance in the central balcony of the Vatican basilica, a current of spontaneous sympathy surged among those present. His smiling face, his trusting and open look conquered the hearts of Romans and faithful the world over.

He came from the illustrious ecclesial community of Venice, which had already given the Church, in the 20th century, two great Pontiffs: St. Pius X, the centenary of whose election as Pope we commemorate precisely this year, and Blessed John XXIII, the 40th anniversary of whose death we observed in June.

2. «We abandon ourselves with confidence to the help of the Lord,» the new Pope said in his first radio message. He was, above all, a master of limpid faith, without yielding to passing and worldly fads. He tried to adapt his teachings to the sensibility of the people, but always preserving the clarity of the doctrine and the consistency of its application to life.

But, what was the secret of his fascination if not an uninterrupted contact with the Lord? «You know it. I try to have a continuous conversation with you,» he noted in one of his writings in the form of a letter to Jesus. «What is important is that Christ be imitated and loved»; here is the truth that, translated into lived experience, makes «Christianity and joy go well together.»

3. The day after his election, in the Angelus of Sunday, Aug. 27, after having remembered his predecessors, the new Pope said: «I have neither the ‘sapientia cordis’ [wisdom of heart] of Pope John, nor the preparation and learning of Pope Paul, but I am in their place. I must try to serve the Church.»

He was very united to the two Popes who preceded him. Before them, he made himself little, manifesting that humility which for him always was the first rule of life. Humility and optimism were the characteristics of his existence. Precisely thanks to these gifts, in his fleeting passage among us, he left the Church a message of hope that found acceptance in so many hearts. «To be optimistic in spite of everything,» he liked to repeat, «trust in God should be the pivot of our thoughts and actions.» And, he observed with realism animated by faith, «the principal persons in our life are two: God and each one of us.»

4. His word and person entered everyone’s spirit and, because of this, the news of his unexpected death, which occurred on the night of Sept. 28, 1979, was overwhelming. The smile was vanishing of a Pastor who was close to the people, who with serenity and balance, was able to enter into dialogue with the culture and the world.

The few talks and writings he left us as Pope, are added to the considerable collection of his texts, which 25 years after his death are of surprising current importance. He once said: «Progress with men who love one another, considering themselves brothers and sons of the one God and Father, can be a wonderful thing. Progress with men who do not recognize in God the only Father, becomes a constant danger.» How much truth there is in these words of his, also useful for the men of our time!

5. May humanity be able to accept such wise advice and extinguish the numerous focuses of hatred and violence present in so many parts of the Earth, in order to build, in concord, a more just and solidaristic world!

Through the intercession of Mary, of whom John Paul I always professed himself a tender and devoted son, we pray to the Lord so that he will receive in his kingdom of peace and joy this faithful Servant of his. We also pray that his teaching, which touches the concreteness of daily situations, will be a light for believers and for every person of good will.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave this summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pope John Paul the First, elected to the See of Peter 25 years ago this month, was a man of deep spirituality. His life with Christ gave inspiration to his work as a talented catechist and a zealous Pastor. From the beginning of his short Pontificate, he won the hearts of the people with his smile and simplicity. I pray that his example and teachings, especially his call to universal dialogue and love, will be an inspiration to our world today.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s audience, especially those from Scotland, Malta, the Philippines and the United States. Upon all of you, I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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