September 1, 1978 The more we get to know Pope John Paul the more we like him. He was first described as the Unknown Pope but this merely goes to show that the most public candidate is not always God’s candidate. We asked for a holy, simple-living, human pastor with a sense of humour and we have got one. We can expect no dramatic change in policies on world affairs or ecumenism but a quiet determination to keep the Church on the path of the Gospel. He needs our prayers and our support, and he will have them.
September 8, 1978 As the sun shone down warmly from a blue sky flecked with white clouds and a gentle breeze blew across the 300,000 people filling the great space of St Peter’s Square, bounded by Bernini’s magnificent colonnade, the ministry of Pope John Paul was inaugurated with a solemn Mass at the golden altar set up on the top of the steps outside the Basilica. It was the Pope’s own wish that, unlike so many of his predecessors, including both Popes John and Paul, he should not be crowned. So the triple tiara has passed into the mists of history.
September 15, 1978 “Don’t forget that I am relying on the prayers of British Catholics,” was the message which Pope John Paul gave to Cardinal Hume during the Mass marking the beginning of his ministry as Supreme Pontiff. Speaking about the new Pope to nearly 90 priests assembled in Birmingham last week, Cardinal Hume said he felt the Church was “on the edge of something great”.
September 29, 1978 A little Italian boy was freed by kidnappers this week just 24 hours after Pope John Paul appealed for “a new wave of love towards one’s neighbour”. It is thought in Rome that the boy’s release may have come as a direct result of the Pope’s call. Gianlucca Locci, aged seven, was taken prisoner while playing outside his home 93 days ago. His captors had originally demanded a £1,500,000 ransom, but settled for £300,000. On Sunday Pope John Paul told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square: “Everyone of us should seek to be good and to infect others with a goodness imbued with the meekness and love taught by Christ.” He called for prayers for God to grant that “a new wave of love towards one’s neighbours should pervade this power world”.
October 6, 1978 Pope John Paul I died of a massive heart attack. He died alone, apparently serenely and without pain, while reading in bed between 11 and 11:30 last Thursday night, but his death was not noted until early Friday morning. Pope Paul VI had died surrounded by Vatican prelates and under medical attention. John Paul died quitely in the same iron bed and in the same south-east corner bedroom on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace that had been used by his four immediate predecessors.
October 13, 1978 However gloomy and frustrated the cardinals must feel when they go into conclave this Saturday, they must know that last time they chose a man who captured the imagination of the world and was an instant success. Mankind is deeply divided today, politically divided between ideologies but more profoundly divided by the system which makes the rich richer at the expense of the poor. The greatest opportunity open to the new Pope will be to give the rich and powerful the confidence to dismantle those parts of their machine which damage the lives of the poor and give the poor the hope to change things for themselves. Pope Paul in particular saw this as the main task for the Church but he could not find a way of mobilising the Church behind the idea. Combining both the warmth of Pope Paul [sic], Pope John Paul opened up new vistas for the Church. A similar man could broaden these further and become a Pope for all Christians and for all men of hope and goodwill.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection