ROME — The moment that the black wall telephone rang early on the morning of Sept. 29, 1978, in Stefania Falasca’s Rome apartment is imprinted in her mind. Then 15, Falasca remembers her father answering and hearing the voice of her uncle, a priest who worked at the Vatican, coming through the receiver: “The pope is dead!”
“But he’s already dead!” Falasca recalled her bewildered father exclaiming.
Like countless others around the globe, her father struggled to comprehend how 65-year-old John Paul I, elected as pontiff barely a month earlier — on Aug. 26, 1978 — could be dead, and confusedly first thought of Pope Paul VI, who had died in early August at age 80.
John Paul I, born Albino Luciani, is widely remembered more for his sudden, mystery-dogged death than for his life. Falasca, an Italian journalist for a Catholic publication, has toiled for more than a decade to change that and to convince the Vatican that he deserves to be a saint for how…