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from issue no. 08 - 2008

Thank you, Pope Luciani

A case of healing through the intercession of Albino Luciani which will be subjected to verification by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The diocesan enquiry is due to end in October

by Stefania Falasca

Giuseppe Denora

Giuseppe Denora

Time just for a coffee at the bar and then shopping at the fish market. As every day now that he’s retired. We arrive at the house passing over millennia of history. Narrow streets of white stone that still speak of Greeks and Moors, of the noble past of Altamura, of independence and fierce battles. But Giuseppe’s is a different story, one of a most ordinary kind of life. His home, his family, the grandchildren, the tale of his quiet doings, of which he talks with the reserve almost of mountain people.
Giuseppe Denora, sixty year-old inhabitant of Altamura, a former bank clerk, is the beneficiary of the intercession of Pope Luciani. Sixteen years ago he was healed of a malignant stomach tumor. A sudden recovery, complete and lasting, so that his case led to the opening of an investigation into the prodigious happening that will now be studied by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He speaks now for the first time of what happened in 1992, only now that the enquiry set up by the diocesan ecclesiastical court of Altamura is about to officially terminate its sessions. “We are a family like so many others”, he says tersely while opening the front door of the house. “I have a newspaper clipping with a picture of Pope Luciani. Two, in fact. One is down in the garage... If you’d like, I’ll show it to you”. And that’s how he begins his story. Without frills, from the garage of his home. “Here you see, that’s it. There’s also the date: 1978, 3 September 1978. At the time I was with my wife in Chianciano spa. On Sunday 3 September we decided to make a visit to Rome, and we ended up in St Peter’s Square at the Angelus of the new Pope. Pope Luciani came out onto the balcony and we watched him as he spoke. I said to my wife: ‘You can see this is a nice person indeed’. I was impressed. An honest man. On the way back I bought a copy of the Avvenire newspaper with his photograph and took it home. I even framed it ... That there”. And then? “Well, he died soon after...”. But you, what did you do over the years? “The job, getting by, three children to feed ... I’ve been married for thirty-seven years and I worked in the bank up to 2000 ... in short, everyday things and sacrifices.” And the other photo? “No. That’s upstairs. Come on. Here, you see, he’s in the red skullcap and stole, one of the first photos as Pope ... it’s not one of the best known nor even one the finest. It’s also from a newspaper clipping. A piece of newspaper as small as a business card that I somehow found on my desk in the office in 1990. Who’d put it there, how it came there I don’t know. At that time there was no more talk of this pope. I took it, I made an enlargement and put it in the bedroom, there, between the window and the wardrobe, looking toward my side of the bed. And there it stayed ... not because I have some mania for things religious”. Did you do it as an act of devotion? “I did it, that’s all. He got himself found discreetly, like someone close, straightforward. And even later, when I fell sick, I would look at him, there in front of me. But I have to be honest, I didn’t pray to him like you do to great saints, I didn’t turn to him as a great saint ... No, I spoke to him man to man”.
John Paul I during an audience in Nervi Hall

John Paul I during an audience in Nervi Hall

When did you fall ill? “At the beginning of 1992. I went to the doctor here in Altamura. He did a gastroscopy on me. He said, “Here, unfortunately, things are looking bad, very bad, go and see this oncologist at Bari hospital”. The oncologist made me do another gastroscopy. Same result: ‘Non-Hodgkin’s gastric lymphoma’. I came home and started chemotherapy”. They didn’t operate? “No”. At that time you were forty-four... “Yes, just forty-four and my youngest daughter was only four. In two months I was reduced to a shadow. I wasn’t eating, I could hardly get out of bed. I lay there, with the photo of this man in front of me. I’d look at him, I let him in on my worries and we’d talk in silence, in the way that I said: ‘Look at the state I’m in, I can’t work any more ... What can I do? And Cecilia’s still small... the children are in need’. ‘I’m here, but you’re up there,’ I’d tell him other times, ‘you know them well, those upstairs, those that are higher up than you. You ask those who are higher up than you what I’m to do, if they’ll help me. If they can help me. You tell them’. On the night of 27 March I felt I was dying from the pain. A furnace in my stomach, I felt it burning so much. And I was burning inside with the pain of having to leave my family. I looked at him and said again: ‘If I have to die now who’s going to think about feeding these children ...’. The room that night was lit up as always by the lampposts in the street ... I saw it at the foot of the bed: a dark shadow that came forward and passed alongside me rapidly with a hand stretched out, a hand, an instant, and in that exact instant it was as if that fire I had inside was dowsed with water. I fell asleep and in the morning I woke rested, reborn. As I woke up I heard my wife calling me shaking me a bit, ‘Peppe, Peppe have you got a temperature?’ I got up and went to have breakfast, the next day I went back to work. Nothing, from that moment on nothing more, I immediately felt just as I am now: in full health. That’s how it was”. And you immediately re-did the clinical examinations? “Yes, seeing the results, the doctors wrote: ‘Complete Remission’”. You said nothing about the fact? “No. Why should I go around talking about it? They saw I’d recovered, that was enough”. Not even to your family? “To my wife, yes, of course, she knew. In June, three months later, I went with her to Rome. I went down below Saint Peter’s Basilica and I put a note near the tomb of Pope Luciani: ‘It’s me, Giuseppe, I came to say thanks’. And since then I’ve done it every year. In 2003, it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of his election and I sent a letter of thanks also to the church in his birthplace. But from that letter there all this process began that I would never have imagined”. Have you been to Canale d’Agordo? “I went for the first time two years ago, in 2006. I stayed for a week. And for the first time there I saw at first hand the life of this man who became pope, and the dignity of that family, what they’d suffered in the struggle to keep going ... I saw the house where he was born, I met a nephew, his brother Berto.” And what did the Pope’s brother say to you? “He said, ‘I’m glad you’re well’”.
“Listen, I don’t know, I don’t know how I snatched this favor from him. My own deserts, certainly not. Perhaps the way I asked him... I don’t know. And now I ask myself: why, why he came all the way down here, just for me ...”. On the way home, before going on his way, he goes into a bakery and comes out with a packet of biscuits. “Taste how good they are, they’re done with white wine ... take them back to Rome. One thing, however, I still want to say: don’t write things I haven’t said. You know how people are, they get all kinds of things into their head, even about us... extraordinary things, yeah, I’ve sometimes done them, but only overtime at work, for example”.

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