Francis presides over the beatification of John Paul I, the pope whose pontificate lasted only 33 days. Chinese artist Yan Zhang was entrusted with the official portrait displayed on the loggia in St. Peter's Square.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - God's style is not that of one who seeks power, but that of one who loves even if this "costs the cross of sacrifice, silence, misunderstanding, loneliness, being hindered and persecuted," reflected Pope Francis today during the beatification ceremony of John Paul I, the pontiff who led the Church for just 33 days in 1978, leaving everyone with the lasting memory of his unique smile.
The rite took place in St. Peter's Square packed with the faithful who had come mainly from Belluno, Vittorio Veneto and Venice, the places where Albino Luciani lived between 1912 and his election to the throne of Peter.
Commenting on the Gospel passage proposed by today's liturgy (Lk 14:25-33), the Pope marked the difference between the style of Jesus and that of those who "taking advantage of society's fears and promising to be the 'saviour' who will solve problems, want to increase their own liking and power, their own figure, their own ability to have things in their hands".
Francis observed, "Jesus seems to be concerned when people follow him with euphoria and easy enthusiasm. He asks each person to carefully discern the motivations for following him". Even "behind a perfect religious appearance one can hide the mere satisfaction of one's own needs, the pursuit of personal prestige, the desire to have a role, to keep things under control, the yearning to occupy spaces and obtain privileges, the aspiration to receive recognition and more. This happens among Christians today. But this is not the style of Jesus."
Following Him - on the contrary - means "taking on one's own burdens and the burdens of others, making life a gift, not a possession, spending it by imitating the generous and merciful love He has for us".
Pointing to John Paul I the pontiff said, the new blessed "lived like this: in the joy of the Gospel, without compromise, loving to the end. He embodied the poverty of the disciple, which is not only to detach oneself from material goods, but above all to overcome the temptation of putting one's own self at the centre and seeking one's own glory".
"With a smile," Francis continued, "Pope Luciani managed to transmit the goodness of the Lord. A Church with a joyful face, a serene face, a smiling face is beautiful, a Church that never closes its doors, that does not sour its hearts, that does not complain and does not harbour resentment, is not angry, is not impatient, does not present itself in a sullen manner, does not suffer from nostalgia for the past by falling into indietrism".
"Let us pray to this our father and brother," he added, "let us ask that he obtain for us 'the smile of the soul', the transparent one, the one that does not deceive. We ask what he himself used to ask: 'Lord, take me as I am, with my faults, with my failings, but make me as you desire me'".
At the Angelus - finally - the Pope's thoughts returned once again to the drama of the war: "We turn to Mary to obtain peace throughout the world and especially in the tormented Ukraine. May she help us to follow the example and holiness of life of John Paul I".
The beatification of John Paul I was also the occasion for an important bridge between Rome and Asia. The official portrait of the new Blessed, displayed on the façade of St. Peter's Basilica and unveiled as usual during the ceremony, is the work of a Chinese artist, painter Yan Zhang. Originally from Neijiang, Sichuan Province, where he was born in 1963, he lived in Tibet in the 1990s, drawing inspiration from Buddhist spirituality.
An artist of international renown, he had already donated two of his works, Iron Staff Lama (1993) and Cham Dance (1995), to Pope Francis in 2017, which are now in the custody of the Vatican Museums. In a video released by the John Paul I Vatican Foundation about the portrait created for this beatification, Yan Zhang says he used typically Chinese painting techniques. "The foundation of the whole painting is the smile, a smile that emerges from the whole body and conveys a certain spirit, a certain strength".