1978 — Pope John Paul I dies after only 33 days in office

One of the briefest reigning popes, Pope John Paul I (his papal named honoured his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI) died at the age of 65, apparently of a heart attack. Inevitably, conspiracy theories regarding his death were widespread later that same day – institutions as powerful and secretive as the Vatican tend to breed them like flies.

Still, it is interesting that John Paul I was one of the most liberal Popes in many years (possibly even moreso than the current Pope Francis), and that his expressed positions on many issues dismayed the more conservative Catholics. His two immediate successors to the Papal throne were both very much hardline conservatives, who were quick to throw cold water on some of John Paul’s planned reforms. The former Cardinal Albino Luciani’s greatest legacy would be his papal name – his successor called himself John Paul II. (Disappointingly, no subsequent pope has named himself George Ringo.)

Referenced in:
Hey Luciani! — The Fall

1978 – Pope John Paul I is appointed

Albino Luciani was the Patriarch of Venice, prior to his ascension to the throne of St Peter. He was much loved as a Pope, both for his humilty and his general joyousness.

His Papal name, John Paul, combined the name of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI – and was subsequently the name of his successor – largely due to the fact that John Paul I died after only 34 days in office (which makes him the eleventh shortest lived Pope).

His theology was unusually liberal for a Pope, including discussing the possibillity of ending the church’s opposition to contraception. For this reason, along with Luciani’s comparative youth (he was 65 when he died, young for a Pope), it is widely rumoured that he was assassinated (which would hardly be unprecedented for a Pope), but no conclusive evidence has ever emerged.

Referenced in:

Wave — Patti Smith
Hey Luciani! — The Fall

Personally, I feel that Pope Benedict XVI really let the side down by not calling himself Pope George Ringo.