VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood cause of Pope Paul VI by recognizing the Italian pope as having lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.
During a meeting Dec. 20 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the pope signed the decree approving the heroic virtues of Pope Paul VI, making him "venerable." Before Pope Paul can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession.
Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, Pope Paul VI is probably best remembered for seeing the Second Vatican Council through to its end and helping implement its far-reaching reforms.
Amid the strains and pressures following Vatican II, he received the nickname the "Hamlet pope," for his reportedly anguished decision-making and his evident suffering over problems of the church. However, he was also remembered as a strong leader who decisively guided the church through a time of crisis.
Pope Paul was the first modern pontiff to start visiting local churches around the globe, making nine major trips abroad.
Prior to his election, he spent more than 30 years helping to run the Vatican's diplomatic machinery at the Secretariat of State, but his diplomatic skills never overshadowed his priestly love of serving those in need.
He worked on behalf of prisoners and the politically persecuted during World War II, pleaded for peace to world leaders, appealed for the lives of condemned terrorists and kidnapped politicians, and donated the papal tiara to raise money for the poor.
He was elected pope in 1963 and died at age 80 in 1978. The Rome Diocese officially opened his sainthood cause in 1993.