Pope Francis takes predecessor a step closer to sainthood

Pope Francis beatifies a predecessor
Pope Francis beatifies a predecessor

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Story highlights

  • A relic and a miracle are required for Pope Paul VI to be beatified
  • The relic is a blood-stained vest from an attempt on his life in the Philippines
  • The miracle involves a woman who refused to abort an unborn child for medical reasons
  • Pope Paul was known for his world travels and ministry to the poor
Pope Francis moved a predecessor closer to sainthood on Sunday, beatifying Pope Paul VI on the last day of a gathering in Rome of church leaders from around the world.
It was a ceremonious close to this year's Synod of the Bishops on the Family, which has ended in clinches over how to minister to gay and lesbian people or whether to give Holy Communion to Catholics who have divorced and remarried -- which the Catholic Church considers adultery.
Paul VI, who was pontiff from 1963 until his death in 1978, had faced similar pressures during the advent of free love, when the church came out against birth control. Pope Paul VI based the decision on Catholic teachings on marriage.
But the church is honoring other aspects of his work, highlighting his efforts to spread social justice and minister to the poor, topics Pope Francis also carries on his banner.
Paul VI is also known for having pioneered papal world visits, traveling to Africa, Latin America and Asia. He was the first pope to visit five continents, the Vatican has said.
Pope Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 1963 to 1978.
He was also the first pope to visit the Holy Land since St. Peter, the Catholic News Service said.
A trip to the Philippines in 1970 could have cost him his life, but it also provided one of the two necessary precursors for his beatification -- a relic.
When he was attacked by a man with a bayonet in Manila, two vests he was wearing were stained with blood, according to historian John-Peter Pham. One of the vests was brought to the beatification in a reliquary.
The second precursor required for beatification is a miracle. Pope Paul VI's involves an unborn child in California, Vatican Radio said.
A doctor advised a pregnant woman to abort her child because of danger to her life and his, but she refused and instead had a nun pray for her using a photo of Pope Paul, CNS reported. The child was born healthy.
The announcement of the beatification came in May, two weeks after Pope Francis canonized two other predecessors, John XXIII and John Paul II, allowing them to ascend to sainthood. The unprecedented ceremony was witnessed by huge crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.