Beatification of Pope John Paul I likely to take place next year

Buenos Aires miracle attributed to pope who sat for 33 days and died in September 1978

The way has been cleared for the beatification of Pope John Paul I, who died in September 1978 after 33 days in office. He is likely to be beatified in 2022. It means that all popes since the election of Pope John XXIII in 1958 will have been either canonised or beatified by Pope Francis.

In April 2014, both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were canonised while Pope Paul VI was canonised in 2018. This week the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints formally recognised a miracle attributed to the intercession of Albino Luciani, or Pope John Paul I.

It said the miracle took place at Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2011 and involved the healing of an 11-year-old girl at the end of her life with "severe acute inflammatory encephalopathy, a malignant refractory epileptic illness and septic shock". Her situation was described as very serious, with numerous daily seizures and bronchial pneumonia.

Prayers for intercession

The child's complete recovery was attributed to prayers offered by her family and nursing staff at the hospital's intensive care unit, seeking the intercession of Pope John Paul I. "On September 5th [2011], the patient was discharged with a prescription for drug and rehabilitation therapy. The child regained complete physical and psycho-cognitive-behavioural autonomy," the decree said.


Pope Francis approved the decree and beatification is believed likely to take place sometime next year.

John Paul I was the first pope to abandon both a papal coronation or wear the papal tiara. He also dropped use of the royal plural “we” in referring to himself and was the first pope to choose a double name for his papal name, in honour of his two immediate predecessors.

‘Smiling pope’

Dubbed “the smiling pope” by media, he was one of three popes in 1978 and was elected on August 26th, 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th. He was 65 on his death just over a month later, on September 28th. In the conclave that followed, Pope John Paul II was elected on October 16th, 1978.

The sudden death of Pope John Paul I gave rise to many conspiracy theories, fed by an initial Vatican statement that he was found by his secretaries, including Bishop John Magee. He was later Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland before resignation in 2010 due to his handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations there.

In fact, the dead Pope John Paul I had been discovered by a nun who had brought him his morning coffee. He had died of a heart attack.

Bishop Magee was the only man in history to be secretary to three popes, Paul VI from 1969, John Paul I and John Paul II until 1982.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times