The Pope’s Humble Origins — Day 10

Monday, Sept. 4, 1978

Albino Luciani at age 3

Little Albino Luciani at age 3

Luciani’s Early Years Shaped Concern for the Poor  (Washington Star)

Albino Luciani was born Oct. 17 1912, in Italy’s Dolomite Alps. His early years in this impoverished, rural area ultimately would make him more than a perfunctory champion of the poor.

Life was difficult for the Luciani family, with his father serving as a migrant bricklayer in Switzerland until at last he was able to gain steady employment as a glass artisan in the island town of Murano, near the Venetian waterways.

Although his father was a socialist activist, the son… has taken a hard line against socialist politics, saying it is not consonant with the Christian faith. He said Marxism, “even as practiced in Italy, is incompatible with the faith.”

[Yet, on another occasion, he wrote,] “The Church’s real treasures are the poor, the little ones, who should not be helped by means of mere occasional alms, but in such a way to ensure their promotion.”

New Pontiff a Product of Simple Life (AP)

VATICAN CITY — Albino Luciani, now John Paul I, the 263rd Roman Catholic pope, is the product of one of the thousands of villages that dot the Italian countryside — where a simple life prevails.

“I am a little man accustomed to little things and to silence,” the 65-year old cardinal recently told a reporter.

Many in his home village, which was renamed Canale D’Agordo in 1964, remember seeing him cutting the grass wearing the black cassock seminarians then wore.

[As an aide to the bishop of Belluno in charge of catechesis, he] concentrated on making this teaching as simple as possible so that illiterate mountain folks could understand it. He recounted his experiences in a book entitled “Catechism in Crumbs,” now in its seventh edition.

He was vicar general in Belluno for four years, when Pope John XXIII named him bishop of Vittorio Veneto, south of Belluno, in 1958.

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