Pope Francis beatified the late Pope Paul VI at the Closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family on Sunday, describing him as a "courageous Christian" and a "tireless apostle." Paul VI, who was known for affirming the Roman Catholic Church's stance against contraception, has been credited for a miracle in California where he is said to have helped in the birth of an unborn child.
Catholic News Agency pointed out that the miracle occurred in the 1990s, where a mother asked a nun to pray for her using a photo of Pope Paul VI in response to news that her unborn child posed a danger to her life and his. After the prayers, the baby boy was born healthy.
Another requirement for beautification was fulfilled by the presentation of relics, in the form of two blood stained vests worn by Paul VI when he was attacked by a man with a bayonet in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in 1970.
In his speech on Sunday, Francis noted that it was Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, who established the Synod of Bishops to discuss important social issues affecting Catholic people around the world.
"When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church," Francis said.
CNN noted that Paul VI affirmed the Catholic teachings on marriage and spoke out against birth control, a controversial issue among believers. The late pontiff was also known for his social justice work, and was the first pope to travel globally, having visited Africa, Latin America and Asia in his time.
Francis recalled Paul VI's personal notes on the Council he helped establish, reading: "Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour" (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121)."
Francis added that Paul VI truly "rendered to God what is God's" and devoted his life to the "sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ" loving the Church and leading her so that she might be "a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation."
At the conclusion of the Synod on Sunday, where the bishops discussed issues such as divorce, remarriage, and potential for outreach toward gay couples, Francis thanked the bishops for their efforts and encourage them to continue their journey.
"Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families," Francis said in anticipation of the second part of the Synod, scheduled for next year.
Back in April, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were officially declared saints by the Catholic Church in a double-canonization ceremony at the Vatican, attended by close to half a million people.