Brief inspirational pieces by the man who was pope for 33 days. John Paul I originally wrote this series of imaginary...

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ILLUSTRISSIMI: Letters From Pope John Paul I

Brief inspirational pieces by the man who was pope for 33 days. John Paul I originally wrote this series of imaginary monologues with three dozen or so ""illustrious"" authors, saints, and fictional characters around 1976, when he was Patriarch of Venice. They are devotional trifles, intended for a mass audience, but they shed light on the sort of man Luciani was, and they provide material for anyone interested in speculating about what sort of papacy he might have had. The letters are addressed to an odd collection of dead notables: Dickens, Goethe, Bernard of Clairvaux, Manzoni, Hippocrates, Sir Walter Scott, Penelope--even Pinocchio and ""the bear of Saint Romedeo."" They reveal a pleasant, homey style, an earnest, warm-hearted pastoral concern, and--surprisingly, perhaps--a broad literary culture. They also reveal a staunchly conservative outlook on sex, and what appears to be a timid liberalism on social and political issues. The pope pours out anecdotes and bits of verse with genial ease, but when it comes to topics like abortion or (Italian) student revolutionaries, he stiffens up. Just as his taste in novels runs to writers like Dickens and Scott, his taste in morality runs to old-fashined innocence and uncomplicated answers. Of course, he had to tailor his remarks to the simple, devout Catholics who first read these letters in the Venetian Messenger of St. Anthony. But he himself was a simple, devout man, and one wonders how he would have handled himself, had he lived to face the crucial moral questions of our day on the global level. No one will ever know, and so this book remains, except for John Paul I's many admirers, a historical curiosity.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978