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Text of the Sermon Given by Cardinal Dean Carlo Confalonieri at the Funeral Mass for Pope John Paul I

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Text of the Sermon Given by Cardinal Dean Carlo Confalonieri at the Funeral Mass for Pope John Paul I October 4, 1978 Venerable brothers in Jesus Christ, No one would have thought that less than two months after we celebrated the funeral rites in St. Peter's Square for Pope Paul VI, who died suddenly, we would once again be gathered here to say our final farewell to his successor, our Holy Father John Paul I who died so suddenly after only 33 days of his pontificate. We ask ourselves, why so quickly? The apostle tells us why in the well-known and beloved explanation: How deep his wisdom and knowledge and how impossible to penetrate his reasons or understand his methods . . . Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? (Romans 11:33). Thus is presented to us in all its immense and almost oppressive greatness, the unfathomable mystery of life and of death. We have scarcely had the time to see the new pope. Yet one month was enough for him to have conquered hearts—and for us it was a month in which we loved him intensely. It is not length which characterizes a life in the pontificate, but rather the spirit that fills it. He passed as a meteor which unexpectedly lights up the heavens and then disappears, leaving us amazed and astonished. Already the Book of Wisdom (4:13) spoke of this when telling of the just man coming to perfection in so short a time that he achieved long life. The funeral prayer which we are about to recite brings this comforting touch of reality: Grant, Oh Lord, that he may praise you without end in heaven, he who on earth served you with a constant profession of faith. In Pope John Paul we greeted and venerated the Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church. But in the brief contact with him we were quickly struck and fascinated by his instinctive goodness, by his innate modesty, by his sincere simplicity in deed and word. The very papal allocutions themselves—the few that he was able to give—reflect this quality. It began with the first discourse that he gave in the Sistine Chapel on the day after his election (for him, how unexpected and how painful). Through his speeches we are able to get a glimpse of the great guidelines that would have been the program of his pontificate: the authenticity and integrity of faith, the perfection of Christian life, the love of great discipline in the many activities that lead to the growth of the kingdom of God as well as to the spiritual and temporal prosperity of all mankind. How could one forget the homily read on the occasion of the Holy Father's taking possession of the cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran? With absolute respect for the liturgical readings he knew how to clearly illustrate and apply the fundamental concepts contained in them. He applied them to the plans and expectations of the Church in Rome, to the tasks of the spiritual development of the faithful and to the primary duties of his pontifical mission. What emerges even more in his loving gift of self was his manner of teaching. He knew well how to translate easily and beautifully lofty theological doctrines into the more understandable language of the catechist, the indispensable method of Christian formation, so necessary today, as pastoral experience confirms daily, for maintaining a sense of divine among the holy people of God and in their daily pilgrimage toward the promised horizon of eternal happiness. He was the perfect teacher. The time that he spent in Belluno, in Vittorio Veneto and in Venice confirmed this. His few weeks of ministry as the Supreme Pastor were enough to reveal him as such to the world as it listened both near and afar to his fatherly lessons. All understood that he was speaking to reach their souls. This was so even when, with wonderful humility and the wisest of psychological insight he spoke directly to children in order that they might help the pope, as he so graciously put it. Everyone understood that he was speaking to the little ones in order that adults might hear and understand. That delicacy, so clear to all, drew from his listeners both attention and the will to act on what they heard. Was it a spiritual need, now so deeply felt because of the general neglect of spiritual values, that pushed the multitudes toward the pope? How else can we explain the very crowded audiences on Wednesday. Visitors came from everywhere. How else can we explain the crowds which literally filled St. Peter's Square at midday each Sunday, a time dedicated to greeting the family and joining in the recitation of the Angelus? Who has not been moved—and deeply moved—by seeing in these recent days the endless spectacular lines of the faithful of Rome, of the whole world? They moved step by step along the entire Colonnade of Bernini, whether under a scorching sun or pouring rain. Finally after two or more hours of patient and heroic waiting, they would reach the Sala Clementina and the Vatican basilica to see yet once again the pope of goodness and of the smile? Yes, because before a world submerged in hatred and in violence, Pope John Paul had been himself, personally, a message of goodness. He called for peace, he prayed for peace. He had a thirst for justice for all—for the oppressed, the suffering, the poor, the needy, in every social category. He exalted labor. He preached charity. And always with a smile on his lips—that smile which never left him, even at the last instant of life. In fact, we saw him like that in the first hours of last Friday. There on his deathbed, his head slightly turned to the right, his lips were half opened in his ever-present smile. Thus he entered into the peace of the Lord. Venerable brothers, civil leaders, clergy, Religious, everyone, just a while ago we heard that page of the Gospel (John 21-15) which speaks of the three-fold question of Jesus and the triple response of the first apostle: Peter, do you love me? You know that I love you Lord. So the pontificate of John Paul was a dialogue of love between father and children—without pause and without hesitation. On the preceding Wednesdays reminding us of John XXIII, Pope John Paul I spoke of faith and hope, and the last week he spoke of charity. These are the three theological virtues which unite us directly to God. He said that man must progress, progress always, in all things that are good, until he becomes perfect. This is the law of progress that dominates life. And before all else he must progress in love of God and neighbor. That is his testament. That is the testament of the Divine Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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