Pope Francis passes a curious milestone

Pope Francis passes a curious milestone

                       Pope John Paul I

Pope Francis is passing a strange milestone today, one that is more on some people’s minds than I would have guessed: his 34th day in office.

In 1978, Pope John Paul I died 34 days after his election, one of the briefest reigns in church history. His death shocked the world and launched conspiracy theories that the “smiling pope” was murdered by enemies inside the Vatican.

I was in Rome at the time, and based on what I have learned over the years I remain unconvinced of any supposed plot to remove the reform-minded John Paul I. He had serious health problems, and there’s no good reason to doubt that he died of a massive heart attack.

But in the popular imagination, the modern Vatican has never completely shed its Borgia-era image. The idea that powerful prelates will stop at nothing to advance their hidden agendas is still very much alive.

That’s been brought home to me in recent days, as I’ve spoken to various groups on my book-promotion tour on the West Coast. I don't want to make too much of this, but at every stop so far, someone has asked about Pope Francis’ “safety” – as if the pope’s reform plans might inevitably produce an internal, and perhaps fatal, backlash inside the Vatican.

Sometimes this is asked in a tone of black humor, but I’ve been surprised at how often the questioner is quite serious. I’ve tried to reassure my audiences that, for both practical and moral reasons, they don’t really have to worry about that scenario.

One reason the question is asked is that Pope Francis reminds many people of Pope John Paul I – in his simplicity, humility and willingness to do things differently at the Vatican. Both popes were elected at a time when many were calling for financial reforms in the Vatican, particularly reform of the Vatican bank.

Pope Francis has a long road ahead of him when it comes to transforming the Vatican bureaucracy. As he showed over the weekend, when he appointed an eight-cardinal advisory panel on church governance, he knows he’s embarked on a delicate process that will take some time to implement. Clearly, he’s looking well beyond 34 days.

10 comments (Add your own)

1. Yae wrote:
I have been thinking about Pope JPI and his short reign as well and am thankful that Papa Francis made it past those dreaded 30 or so days. I hope he will reign for many years to come, if our Lord wills it. I agree, there is so much to do and can only hope he cracks the door open and folks will all cooperate for the good of the Church worldwide. I will keep praying in the meantime.

Mon, April 15, 2013 @ 4:36 PM

2. GabrielMary wrote:
This is cool.. thank you John.. and thanks to New Advent for sharing on facebook.. you (john) are great !!!!

Mon, April 15, 2013 @ 10:29 PM

3. brendolnz wrote:
Over at the NCR comments section I have been amazed at the number of people saying the same thing. They are obviously serious, too, which is sort of sad.
Many of them believe Francis stayed in the Domus Santa Marthae so that the evil Curia could not "get him" so easily. I think he just sincerely likes normal people, and realizes that there is a certain degree of isolation that takes place when you move to the Papal apartments.

Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

4. Latin, America wrote:
It's unfortunate we don't have several Cardinal Ottaviani among the council of 8. But that isn't part of the agenda and this Pope knows it, that's why the collegial council.
It's obviously now "time" for the reforms. Pope John Paul I was ahead of time; he looked to bite off more than the forces were ready to chew, so to speak.
The time is now right to divest the Church of its property. I see that as part of the long-range plan. The real estate is to be sold off in the next 30 or so years. The bank will, at some point and for the "common good" and/or the "good of ecumenism", be reduced to a shell; just another holding company.
If the Pope is "for real" we'll find out in short order.

Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 12:38 PM

5. Kelly wrote:
I don't think that the Curia would be capable of offing a meddlesome pope even if they wanted to. They'd probably end up poisoning themselves. But it is sort of shocking how many people believe this.

Tue, April 16, 2013 @ 4:04 PM

6. Janet O'Connor wrote:
I am glad to see that I am not the only one out that sees many of the same things between Francis and John Paul I. He has passed an important milestone yesterday but at the age of 76 and with breathing issues (he can't sing) we will still have to take it day by day like we did with Pope Emeritus Benedict. However John Paul I did wear a Mozetta on the day of his election and he did use the first in his name and he did live in the Apostolic Palace like all the other Popes. He did only have one healthy lung and was in a sanitorium for a while when he was younger. He also would not take any kind of short cuts with liturgies (he wanted them done correctly)and one more thing:Francis has NOT taken small children up to speak at his audiences like John Paul I did. That is where the similarities end.

Wed, April 17, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

7. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
Pope Francis seems to walk with a slight limp. That couldn't be from the lung problem he had decades ago. Yet I have seen no explanation of or, indeed, any mention of it in the media. Does anyone know what the story is?????

Wed, April 17, 2013 @ 11:37 AM

8. Larry wrote:
Deacon John, I read somewhere recently that Pope Francis suffers from sciatica. If that's true, I can fully understand (and sympathize with) the limp. :)

Wed, April 17, 2013 @ 2:28 PM

9. Justyn Tyme wrote:
Papa Luciani has come back to us in the person of Pope Francis. I returned to my studies for the priesthood through the intercession of John Paul I whom I consider to be my Spiritual Father and Mentor. He validated my vocation to the priesthood and Pope Francis, by both his style and substance, confirmed it , along with my own style and substance these past 30 years of happy and fruitful priestly ministry. Humility and Mercy!

Wed, April 17, 2013 @ 2:52 PM

10. Pauline wrote:
I always think of the days of JP1 as a ray of Sunshine sent to us by our Lord.
We have been blessed lately by a wonderful string of pearls (the popes) all
united but with a uniqueness of their own.
JP2 was the traveller, B16 the holder of the wisdom of the word and now Francis
a man of the flock.
May they all be blessed.

Sat, April 20, 2013 @ 11:16 AM

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