Late Pope Paul VI to move closer to sainthood

Sat May 10, 2014 8:51am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The late Pope Paul VI, who led the Roman Catholic Church during one of its most turbulent modern periods and enshrined its opposition to contraception, will move a step closer to sainthood in October, the Vatican said on Saturday.

Pope Francis, who last month declared saints of two of his predecessors, will beatify Paul, declaring him a "blessed" of the Church, at a ceremony on October 19.

The timing of the ceremony, which will take place at the conclusion of a Vatican synod of bishops from around the world on the theme of the family, means Francis will have either canonized or beatified three of his predecessors in the unusually short space of six months.

Beatification is the last step before sainthood. The late pope's move towards canonization was made possible after the Vatican recognized what it says was a miracle attributed to Paul, who died in 1978.

The purported miracle concerns a pregnant woman in California whose unborn child was discovered to be at high risk of dying in the womb or being born with severe birth defects in the 1990s.

Doctors advised the woman to have an abortion but, at the advice of a nun, she prayed to the late Pope Paul. The child, now an adult, was born without problems.

A Vatican medical committee ruled that the healing was medically inexplicable.

The Church teaches that God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them.   Continued...

Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is silhouetted during sunset in Rome, March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hanna