33 Years Ago Today: Papa Luciani on Authority, the Poor, and Liturgy


Thirty-three years ago today, Pope John Paul I made his way to his cathedral (St. John Lateran) to take formal possession of it. On his way there, he stopped at the foot of the Capitoline Hill to greet the civil government of the city of Rome.

In his brief speech to them, he returned to the theme of hope. Here is what he said in part:

The hope which I heard with pleasure echoed in your kind address, is for us believers – as I recalled at the General Audience last Wednesday – an obligatory virtue and an elect gift of God. May it serve to reawaken energies and resolutions in each of us and, as I trust in all fellow citizens of goodwill; may it serve to inspire initiatives and programs, in order that those problems may have suitable solutions and Rome may remain faithful, in actual fact, to those mistakably Christian ideals which are called hunger and thirst for justice, an active contribution for peace, the superior dignity of human respect and love for brothers, and unfailing solidarity with regard to the weakest.

Pope John Paul I again speaks of hope as an obligatory virtue, and he connects it with world renewal. In his view, it would seem, the new evangelization which his successor would take up, required a new hope.

Later that day, Luciani arrived at the Patriarchal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. His homily is stunningly beautiful and difficult to excerpt. It reflects, I believe, the core of what Luciani would have pursued in his pontificate should he had lived longer. In it he speaks of attention to the poor, the issue of authority and the relationship between laity and clergy, and liturgical reform.

Rome will be a true Christian community if God is honored by you not merely with a multitude of the faithful in the churches, not merely with private life that is lived morally, but also with love for the poor. These, the Roman deacon Lawrence said, are the true treasures of the Church……

In the Book of Job there is a description of a war-horse….the symbol of liberty. Authority, on the contrary, is like the prudent rider… to reconcile the horse and the rider, liberty and authority, has become a social problem. It is likewise in the Church…. “the faithful should acquiesce  to the bishop as the Church to Jesus Christ and as Jesus Christ to the Father. (Lumen Gentium, 27)…. May the Lord help us all build at Rome a living and active Christian community…..

I should like also that Rome should in fact give a good example of Liturgy celebrated devoutly and without ill-placed “creativity”. Certain abuses in liturgical matters have succeeded, through reaction, in favoring attitudes that have led to a taking up of positions that in themselves cannot be upheld and are in contrast with the Gospels. In appealing with affection and with hope to the sense of responsibility for everyone, before God and the Church, I should like to be able to give an assurance that every liturgical irregularity will be diligently avoided…

I can assure you that I love you, that I desire only to enter into your service and to place the poor powers that I have, however little they are, at the disposal of all.

Luciani also in this homily speaks of St. Pope Gregory the Great, and his hope that he would follow in the footsteps of Gregory in catechesis and attention to the social conditions of the time.

Log on to www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_i/speeches/documents/hf_jp-i_spe_23091978_rome-mayor_en.html  and


to read both in English.

Papa Luciani, pray for us!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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