Pope Francis: Blessed Paul VI to Be Canonized This Year

The Holy Father revealed the news in an informal conversation with Rome priests on Thursday.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas, in St. Peter's Basilica on February 2, 2018.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass for feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas, in St. Peter's Basilica on February 2, 2018. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

Pope Francis has said he will proclaim Blessed Paul VI a saint later this year, and joked that he and Benedict XVI are “on the waiting list.”

At the end of a closed-door question and answer session with priests of Rome on Thursday, the Pope said it will be a “holy year” for Paul VI. "There are two Bishops of Rome who have recently become saints: John XXIII and John Paul II,” the Pope said. “Paul VI will become one this year. One cause for beatification is underway, John Paul I; his cause is open. And Benedict and I are on the waiting list. Pray for us."

Earlier this month, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Paul VI.

Pope Francis has yet to give his formal approval which would be in the form of an official decree, after which the date of his canonization in Rome will be announced. Some expect Paul VI to be canonized in the autumn, probably October, or possibly just before the summer holidays.

The miracle attributed to the cause of Paul VI is the healing of an unborn child in the fifth month of pregnancy. The case was brought forward in 2014 for study.

The mother, originally from the province of Verona, Italy, had an illness that risked her own life and the life of her unborn child, and was advised to have an abortion.

A few days after the beatification of Paul VI on Oct. 19, 2014, she went to pray to him at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace in the town of Brescia. The baby girl was later born in good health, and remains in good health today.

The healing was first ruled as medically inexplicable by the medical council of the congregation last year, while the congregation's consulting theologians agreed that the healing occurred through the late Pope's intercession.

The alleged miracle closely resembles the one that opened the way for Paul VI’s beatification. That first miracle took place in the 1990s in California when an unborn child was found to have a serious health problem that posed a high risk of brain damage. Physicians advised that the child be aborted, but the mother entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI.

The child was born without problems and is now a healthy adolescent. He is considered to be completely healed.

Pope Paul’s cause for canonization was opened in 1993. In December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the “heroic virtue” of Paul VI, giving him the title “venerable.” He was beatified in Rome on Oct. 19, 2014.

Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in 1897 in the town of Concesio in the Lombardy region of Italy. He was ordained a priest at the age of 22. He served as Archbishop of Milan before his election as Pope in 1963. He died in 1978.

As Pope, he oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII. He also promulgated a new Roman Missal in 1969.

He is also perhaps best remembered for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception and upheld the merits of priestly celibacy.

If the canonization takes place in the Fall, it is likely to coincide with the presentation of findings of a Vatican commission on Humanae Vitae.

The commission, whose existence was not formally announced until news of it was leaked to the Vaticanista Marco Tosatti and the Catholic website Corrispondenza Romana, began its work last year.

Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, its coordinator, has said it is a “work of historical-critical investigation,” reconstructing the “whole process of composing the encyclical.”

However, recent re-interpretations of the encyclical by scholars closely associated to the commission have led to concerns that moves are afoot to soften Paul VI’s clear teaching that use of artificial contraception is “intrinsically wrong.”