Late Pope Paul VI to be made saint this year, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis standing in front of a crucifix during his weekly general audience at St Peter's Square. PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - The late Pope Paul VI, who led the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s during one of its most turbulent modern periods and enshrined its opposition to contraception, will be made a saint this year, Pope Francis has decided.

Francis made the announcement on Thursday at a private meeting with Rome priests. The Vatican issued the transcript of the conversation on Saturday (Feb 17).

When he made the announcement on Thursday, Francis joked that he and former Pope Benedict, who resigned in 2013 and is now 90 years old, "are on the waiting list".

Paul became pope in 1963 after the death of Pope John XXIII. He guided the Church through the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, which had started under his predecessor, and the implementation of its modernizing reforms. He died in 1978.

He headed the Church through the 1960s when many priests left religious orders and vocations to the religious life fell sharply in the turbulent era of social change.

Paul is perhaps best known for his controversial encyclical Humane Vitae (On Human Life), which enshrined the Church's ban on artificial birth control in 1968.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897, Paul spent much of his career in the Vatican's diplomatic service before becoming cardinal of Milan.

Paul was beatified in 2014 after a first miracle was attributed to him. Earlier this month, a Vatican theological and medical commission approved a second miracle attributed to him.

The Church teaches that God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them.

A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of someone.

Paul will become the third pope that Francis has made a saint since his election five years ago. The others are John XXIII, who died in 1963, and John Paul, who died in 2005.

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