Albino Luciani was born 17 October 1912 in Forno di Canale - now Canale d'Agordo - in a poor family - a background he would never forget. After listening to the sermon of a Capuchin Franciscan monk, he expressed his desire to become a priest. In 1935 he was ordained a priest in his native parish and later was assigned to teach theology at the Belluno seminary, of which he was made vice-rector. He passed a doctorate in 1947 and was named chancellor to the Bishop of Belluno. He wrote his first book, wishing to teach catechism in a simple way.
In 1958 he was consecrated Bishop and in 1969 named Patriarch of Venice. In 1971 he suggested to other bishops that rich countries' dioceses should give 1% of their income to Third World countries as a way of compensation for social injustices. In 1973 he was created Cardinal. When he travelled to Fatima, Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the children who saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary, referred to him as "Holy Father", to his great surprise. He published a book of letters written to historical or literary figures, in a direct and simple style.
Though he was opposed to communism, he sold objects from the treasury to help disabled children and urged priests in Venice to do the same,
and he established family counselling clinics to assist the poor.
Before the election of the new Pope, he was approached by some cardinals who suggested that he would be a fine pontiff but he expressed his desire not to be elected. He was nevertheless elected Pope on 26 August 1978, much to the world surprise, as he was not among the favourites.
He chose a double name to honour his predecessors and their qualities. John Paul I died of a heart attack 28 September of the same year. His plans included the promotion of dialogue, world peace and social justice.