Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini) will be beatified October 19 after Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) officially confirmed a miracle attributed to the former, the Vatican says.
The miracle attributed to Pope Paul VI involved a mother in California who prayed to the Pope for a successful pregnancy after doctors discovered serious threats to the life of the unborn infant in 2001.
The mother refused an abortion and prayed for Paul VI's intercession after doctors told her of the rupture of the fetal bladder and absence of amniotic liquid. The baby was born a month prematurely and is now a healthy adolescent.
The Vatican did not reveal details about the miracle, which has to be certified by doctors as having no medical explanation.
One miracle is required by the Catholic Church for beatification. A second miracle is traditionally required for canonization or sainthood. Beatification is the last formal step before sainthood.
Pope Paul VI was viewed as a reformist who fostered improved ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestants. During his pontificate from 1963 to 1978, Paul VI made historic progress in improving the Catholic Church's relationship with other Christians.
He continued the work of his predecessor, St. John XIII, who called the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II that allowed the mass to be said in local languages instead of in Latin, among other reforms.
Paul VI ended nearly a millennium of estrangement between Catholics and Orthodox Christians when he journeyed to Jerusalem in 1964 and embraced Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I (Aristocles Spyrou) of Constantinople to restore relations between Rome and the Istanbul-based church.
The meeting between Paul VI and the Ecumenical caused Rome to rescind the excommunications of the Great Schism of 1054.
It also resulted in the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965 which showed a desire for greater reconciliation between the two churches divided for almost a 1,000 years by theological estrangement and mutual mistrust.
Paying tribute to that historic event, Pope Francis will travel to Jerusalem later in May to pray with the current Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I (Dimitrios Arhondonis).
Paul VI also did away with many of the ornate trappings of the papacy, pre-dating Pope Francis' disdain for pomp at the Vatican.