VATICAN CITY — Pope Paul VI, who guided the Catholic Church through a tumultuous period of change in the 1960s and 70s, took a crucial first step toward possible sainthood when Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (Dec. 20) recognized his predecessor’s “heroic virtues.”
Paul VI is now considered “venerable” in the Catholic Church, and needs the Vatican to recognize a miracle due to his intercession in order to be beatified, or declared “blessed.” A second miracle would then elevate him to sainthood.
Giovanni Battista Montini (1897-1978) was elected to the papacy with the name of Paul VI in 1963. He oversaw the implementation of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
A top Vatican official and archbishop of Milan before becoming pope, Montini is also famous for the 1968 publication of the encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which condemned contraception and birth control despite the opposition of a large part of the church.