The Smiling Pope’s Letter to Mark Twain: Humor, Hitler, and Three Different Johns
Today I'm over at Ignitum Today writing about the forgotten Pope and his letter to Mark Twain:
What if Cardinal Timothy Dolan became Pope? That's probably a long-shot, but it's a question I've been hearing more and more especially as his star rises across the world. When asked, one answer I like to give is, "Well, look back to 1978 and find out."
Sandwiched between the prophetic Pope Paul VI and the magnetic Pope John Paul II, Pope John Paul I was one of the twentieth century's most charming Catholic leaders. He reigned as vicar of Christ for just 33 days before his unexpected death. But in those five weeks, he wooed the world.
Like the jolly archbishop of New York, John Paul liked his religion tinged with humor. He was a natural joker with a big, beaming smile. To this day Italians remember him as "Il Papa del Sorriso"—the Smiling Pope.
After his death, Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri remembered John Paul as a "meteor that lights up the heavens and then disappears, leaving us amazed and astonished." Cardinal John Wright of Pittsburgh called him "an enemy of boredom, a friend of delight."
A few weeks ago, I had a brush-in with this cheerful churchman. I was browsing my local used bookstore, when I stumbled upon a dusty old book titled Illustrissimi: Letters from Pope John Paul I (Little, Brown and company, hardcover, 258 pages).