Europe

Pope Francis announces beatification date for Paul VI

Pope Paul VI and John Kennedy at the Vatican July 1963 Image copyright AP
Image caption Paul VI, seen here in 1963 with US President John Kennedy, wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968

Pope Francis has set another of his predecessors on the road to sainthood.

He approved a miracle credited to the intercession of Paul VI - who died in 1978 after a 15-year pontificate and is remembered by many for his ban on artificial contraception for Catholics.

The beatification ceremony will be held at the Vatican on 19 October, Pope Francis announced.

The move came two weeks after the canonisation of two other 20th Century popes - John XXIII and John Paul II.

Beatification is the third of four steps in the process by which someone officially becomes a saint.

It requires at least one miracle to have been attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood who, once beatified, is given the title blessed.

After beatification, a separate miracle would have to be verified in order for Paul VI to be canonised - declared a saint - allowing him to be venerated by the universal Church as "an example of holiness that can be followed with confidence".

Church teaching on families

Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Montini in the Lombardy region of Italy in 1897, the son of a prominent newspaper editor.

He was elected pope in 1963 and continued the reforms of his predecessor, John XXIII.

Paul VI died in August 1978 and was succeeded briefly by Pope John Paul who died in October 1978.

During his 15-year pontificate he wrote seven encyclicals - the most controversial of which was Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), published in 1968.

Its uncompromising position on birth control led to protests around the Catholic world and some national Roman Catholic Church hierarchies openly modified the statement.

In 1995 Pope John Paul II supported Paul VI's view on birth control in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

The teaching on contraception is widely disregarded by modern-day Catholics, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

October's beatification ceremony will be held at the end of a crucial meeting of global bishops to discuss Catholic teaching on family life, called by Pope Francis.

The bishops will be discussing the results of a worldwide survey commissioned by the Pope about what parts of the Church's teaching on human sexuality Catholics actually follow today.

As is customary, the Vatican gave no details about the miracle - which the Holy See requires must be a phenomenon certified by doctors as having no medical explanation.

But Italian media report the miracle involved a Californian baby who was born healthy despite the pre-birth diagnoses of a ruptured foetal bladder and absence of amniotic fluid.

The mother reportedly refused to abort the child, instead praying for Paul VI's intercession at the behest of a nun.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites