In 1958, Luciani was named Bishop of the Vittorio Veneto diocese by St. John XXIII, and was consecrated by the Pope himself in St. Peter's Basilica.
Luciani was among the bishops present from around the world for the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and he attended each of the four sessions before the Council's close in 1965.
In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Pope Paul VI, one of the few patriarchates in the Latin Church. The Archbishop of Venice is typically made a cardinal, and Luciani received his red hat from Paul VI in 1973.
He participated in the 1971 Synod of Bishops on “The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World” and in 1972 was elected Vice President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, a position he held until 1975.
The last year of his life was a whirlwind in which he participated in the fall 1977 Synod of Bishops on “Catechesis in Our Time” and voted in the August 1978 conclave that elected him as Pope after the death of Paul VI.
He had hardly given four general audiences when he died just 33 days into his pontificate – 34 including the day of his election, which counts canonically.
The sudden nature of his death gave rise to various theories of foul play at the time of his passing. However, a book published this month by Italian journalist Stefania Falasca, the vice-postulator of his cause, has debunked the conspiracies and insinuations of murder.
In her book, released in Italian and titled “John Paul I: the Chronicle of a Death,” Falasca provides both documentation and testimony indicating that the late Pope suffered a brief, unknown cardiac episode the night before he died, which was likely linked to a previous heart problem he thought had been resolved, but was most likely the cause of his death.
Although the cause for canonization of a Pope is typically opened by Rome, in 2003 the Bishop of the Belluno diocese, Vincenzo Savio, requested to have the cause opened there, since Luciani had spent the majority of his ministry there, and was only in Rome for a month before his death.
The request was accepted, and the Diocese of Belluno officially opened John Paul I's cause in November 2003. The lengthy document detailing the late Pope's life and virtues, called the "positio," was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on his birthday, Oct. 17, 2016.
With the approval of his heroic virtue, the path is now open for Pope John Paul I's beatification, which requires that there be miracles attributed to his intercession. One miracle is needed for him to be beatified and declared “Blessed,” and two are needed for his canonization as a Saint.
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