A new book discloses details about the death of Pope John Paul I – who died in 1978 after just 33 days in office – and conclusive evidence that his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously thought. In the book, called “Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death,” Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca presents thoroughly-researched evidence, including previously undisclosed medical reports, witness testimonies and Vatican documents, confirming original reports that the late pontiff died of a heart attack.
Albino Luciani, who was born on Oct. 17, 1912 in Italy’s northern Veneto region, was elected Bishop of Rome at the age of 65. He took the name Pope John Paul to honor both of his immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI. His term as pope was short-lived, however, as he died suddenly on Sept. 28, 1978, after only 33 days in office. It has been presumed his death was caused by a heart attack, but a lack of published evidence has allowed conspiracy theories to surface, including insinuations of murder. The book was released Nov. 7, which coincided with the announcement that John Paul I’s cause for sainthood is moving forward.
In her book, Falasca, who also serves as vice-postulator of Luciani’s cause for sainthood, outlines evidence regarding John Paul I’s death, including how the evening before his death he suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem. It occurred while sitting and praying vespers in the chapel with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner. The pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor and the pain went away without treatment. His doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the event after his death. Contrary to what was first announced by the Vatican, however, it wasn’t the pope’s secretaries who first found him the next morning, but a young nun.
When the elderly Sr. Vicenza, who helped care for the pope, noticed that he had not come out of his room to take his morning coffee, she knocked on his door, opening it when he didn’t answer. She immediately came back out in a state of shock, however, and called for the younger Sr. Margherita Marin. In her sworn testimony, Sr. Margherita relates that entering the room she “touched his hands, they were cold, and I saw, and was struck by the fact that his nails were a little dark.” Sr. Margherita, now 76 years old, said in her testimony that John Paul I did not seem tired or weighed down by his new responsibilities, but that she always saw him “calm, serene, full of trust, confident.”