Albino Luciani was elected to replace Paul VI as head of the worldwide Catholic Church in 1978, becoming Pope John Paul I -- only to die himself 33 days after his election. Born in rural Italy, Alberto Luciani was ordained as a priest in 1935. After three decades of service he became Patriarch of Venice in 1969 and then was made cardinal in 1973. Luciani was elected as the supreme pontiff on 26 August 1978. He combined the names of his two immediate predecessors, Paul VI and John XXIII, to become Pope John Paul. Cheerful and low-key, he was soon dubbed the Smiling Pope and the Laughing Pope by admirers. His time as leader was short: on the night of 28 September he died of a heart attack, apparently while reading in bed. He was succeeded by Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in more than four centuries.
John Paul I was the first pope ever to take a double name… Like Jiang Zemin, John Paul I was reportedly a fan of American author Mark Twain… Over the years, the pope’s short reign and sudden death have led to persistent gossip that he was poisoned or otherwise murdered. David Yallop’s 1984 book In God’s Name, for instance, alleged that John Paul was killed by Vatican officials who feared he would uncover financial misdealings in Vatican affairs. None of these charges has ever been proved. A similar plotline (not mentioning John Paul by name) was used in the 1990 Francis Ford Coppola film The Godfather Part III.
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