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How to Misplace a Pope
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While cruising around the Internet last Tuesday (August 26) I was stopped short by a note that on that day, thirty years ago, Pope John Paul I had been elected and embarked on a papacy that lasted a mere 33 days.

At first I thought it was a joke. At the end of the article the writer would say Pope John Paul I had been succeeded by Pope George Ringo. I had no recollection of a Pope who had reigned for little more than a month during my own lifetime, when I was in my twenties and reading the news. I was familiar with John Paul II of course. But a predecessor who shared the same two names? When I looked him up though, there he was.

Had I stumbled into some alternate reality? I am not a Catholic but, really, how do you misplace a Pope? Particularly one distinguished by such a short tenure. As a baseball fan I am drawn to records or near records, even futile ones. How about those 1962 Mets who lost an all time "best" 120 games? I was aware that Pope John Paul II was the second longest serving Pope, behind only the nineteenth century pontiff Pius IX, unless you count Saint Peter, but that was before they started keeping official statistics.

It seemed impossible I could have overlooked Pope John Paul I or forgotten him so thoroughly that a mention didn't spark some vague recollection.

Then I recalled what I had been doing in the late summer of 1978: moving to New York City to go to law school. What a thrilling and traumatic and terrifying few weeks that had been for an English major from the sticks. I probably hadn't looked at the television news or bought a newspaper during the whole time that Pope John Paul I reigned. If I had heard about him in passing it must not have made any impression what with the upheavals in my own life. I wonder if I missed anything else of interest during that hectic month?

I guess that even in our own lives, history is only what gets noticed.

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