Pope Francis beatified Paul VI during a heavily attended Mass in St. Peter’s Square, at which he said of the pope who closed the Second Vatican Council that “he led the Church with wisdom and a vision of the future”.
The pontiff said that Paul had noted that the Church, especially the Synod of Bishops which Paul established, must observe the current world and social situation to make sure the Church adjusts its methods to address the “growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society”.
Paul VI — who served as pope from 1963 to 1978 — was beatified, the first step toward eventual sainthood, at the ceremony closing the extraordinary bishop’s synod that has focused on the family, and the beatification marks the third 20th century pope that Francis has elevated this year, after his canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II in April.
The Vatican-certified miracle attributed to the intercession of Paul VI, which allowed him to be beatified, concerned a California boy whom doctors had said would be born with serious birth defects, but who — after the mother refused to abort the fetus — was born without any problems and is now a healthy teenager.
For Paul to be made a saint, a second miracle will need to be certified by the Vatican.
The former Giovanni Montini, as Paul VI, was the first jet age “traveling pope” and the author of the controversial encyclical “Humanae Vitae”, which established the Church’s current opposition to abortion and birth control measures.
The Vatican said some 70,000 people attended the Mass, including former Pope Benedict XVI, whom Paul VI had named a cardinal in 1977.