By Jim Fair

Pope Francis, with Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi of February 17, 2020, has instituted the John Paul I Vatican Foundation, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law and the fundamental Law of the Vatican City State, thus accepting the proposal to create a body intended to study further the person, thought and teachings of his venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul I – Albino Luciani (26 August 1978 – 28 September 1978) – and to promote the study and dissemination of his writings (cf. Statute, art. 1).

More particularly, the Foundation aims to:

– protect and preserve the cultural and religious heritage of Pope John Paul I;

– promote initiatives such as conferences, meetings, seminars and study sessions;

– establish prizes and scholarships;

– to carry out editorial activity through the publication of both the results of its own studies and research and the works of third parties;

– to propose itself as a point of reference, in Italy and abroad, for those working in the same field and with the same aims (Statute, art. 2).

At the same time, the Supreme Pontiff appointed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, as President of the Foundation. In implementation of the provisions of art. 4, paragraph 1 of the Statute, the same President appointed the members of the Board of Directors, for a period of five years, in the persons of Dr. Stefania Falasca, who also assumes the role of Vice-President of the Foundation; His Eminence Cardinal Beniamino Stella; the Reverend Msgr. Andrea Celli; the Reverend Don Davide Fiocco; Dr. Lina Petri; and Dr. Alfonso Cauteruccio.

In order to carry out its activities, the Foundation avails itself of a Scientific Committee, composed of six members, chosen among personalities of proven competence and experience, but with the possibility of being temporarily expanded for particular initiatives, projects, studies, research, or consultations.

Cardinal Parolin shared his thoughts on the new foundation in the following article published inL’Osservatore Romano, April 28, 2020.

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Article of H.E. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin

On the Institution of the John Paul I Vatican Foundation

Birth of the John Paul I Vatican Foundation

Topicality of Pope Luciani

Meeting the proposal to give life to an entity destined to reflect further on the figure, thought and teachings of John Paul I (August 26, 1978 – September 28, 1978), last February 17 the Holy Father Francis constituted the John Paul I Vatican Foundation.

Pope John Paul I was and remains a point of reference in the history of the universal Church, whose importance — as Saint John Paul II observed — is inversely proportional to the duration of his very brief pontificate: magis ostentus quam datus.”

Albino Lucian’s story is that of a Pastor close to the people, focused on the essentials of the faith and with an extraordinary social sensibility. His teaching is current. Proximity, humility, simplicity, insistence on God’s mercy, love of neighbor, and solidarity are the salient traits.

He was a Bishop that lived the experience of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council; he applied it in his brief pontificate and he made the Church progress along the ways indicated by it: the return to the sources of the Gospel and a renewed missionary endeavor, Episcopal Collegiality, service in ecclesial poverty, the search for Christian unity, inter-religious dialogue, dialogue with contemporaneity and international dialogue conducted with perseverance and determination, in favor of justice and peace.

I think, for instance, of his General Audiences and the insistence on ecclesial poverty, on universal fraternity and on active love for the poor: he wished to insert, among the traditional precepts of the Church, a command on the works of solidarity and he proposed it to the Italian Bishops.

I think of his appeal at the Angelus of September 10, 1978, in favor of peace in the Middle East, with the invitation to prayer addressed to the Presidents of different faiths. An appeal that he had already expressed in his address to the Diplomatic Corps held on August 31, in which, freeing himself from presumptions of geopolitical protagonism, he defined the nature and the peculiarity of the Holy See’s diplomatic action from a look of faith. Then, receiving the more than a hundred representatives of the international missions present at the inauguration of his pontificate, he stressed how “our heart us open to all peoples, to all cultures and to all races,” to then affirm: “We certainly don’t have miraculous solutions for the great global problems; however, we can give something that is very precious: a spirit that helps to dissolve these problems and place them in the essential dimension, that of openness to the values of universal charity so that the Church, humble messenger of the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth, can contribute to create an atmosphere of justice, brotherhood, solidarity and hope without which the world can’t live.” And thus, in the wake of the Conciliar Constitution Gaudium et Spes, as in many messages of Saint Paul VI, he moved in the furrow of the great diplomacy that has given many fruits to the Church, being nourished with charity.

With his sudden death, this history of the Church was not interrupted, so bent to serve the world. The prospect marked by his brief pontificate was not a parenthesis. Although the government of the Church of John Paul I could not unfold in history, yet he competed — explevit tempora multa — in reinforcing the design of a Church close to the pain of the people and of its thirst for charity. Carried out today, through the cause of John Paul I’s Canonization, was the acquisition of the sources, initiating a work of research and of important elaborations from a historical and a historiographical point of view. Hence, possible now is a proper return to the memory of Pope Luciani, so that his historical value can be fully restored in the historical contingencies crossed with the analytical rigor that is due to him and to open new prospects of study on his work.

In this connection, the constitution of a new ad hoc Foundation can dutifully carry out the task not only to protect the whole patrimony of the writings and work of John Paul I, but also motivate the systematic study and diffusion of his thought and of his spirituality. Motivated all the more by the consideration of how his figure and his message are extraordinarily current.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

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