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Pope Francis beatifies 'smiling pope' Pope John Paul I

Pope Francis on Sunday beatified John Paul I, who was known as "the smiling pope" and died just 33 days after he was elected. Photo by Riccardo AntimianiEPA-EFE
Pope Francis on Sunday beatified John Paul I, who was known as "the smiling pope" and died just 33 days after he was elected. Photo by Riccardo AntimianiEPA-EFE

Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday beatified his predecessor John Paul I, placing him one step closer to sainthood.

John Paul I earned a representation as "the smiling pope" before he died unexpectedly in Sept. 28, 1978, just 33 days after he was elected as pope. He was succeeded by John Paul II.

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"With a smile, Pope John Paul I managed to communicate the goodness of the Lord," Francis said.

"How beautiful is a church with a happy, serene and smiling face, that never closes doors, never hardens hearts, never complains or harbors resentment, does not grow angry or impatient, does not look dour or suffer nostalgia for the past."

A crowd of about 25,000 gathered for the ceremony amid a thunder storm, which eventually gave way to sun.

A large banner bearing a portrait of John Paul I hung on St. Peter's Basilica.

John Paul I was the first pope to be born in the 20th century and the most recent pope to be born in Italy.

Born, Albino Luciani, on Oct. 17, 1912, he also became the first pope to take a double name honoring his predecessors Popes John XXIII and Paul VI.

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He presided over only four general audiences as pope before he died at the age of 65.

"Lord, take me as I am, with my defects, with my shortcomings, but make me become what you want me to be," he said in a prayer shortly before his death.

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