Pope Francis on Sunday beatified Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978 after concluding the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and enshrining the Church’s ban on contraception.
The ceremony, attended by some 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, marked the conclusion of a two-week gathering of bishops that Francis called to discuss how the Church could better minister to the faithful, Reuters reported. Paul’s beatification brings him a step closer to sainthood.
After an initial draft of the synod’s final document was released on Monday, conservative bishops vowed to change the language on gays, cohabitation and re-marriage, saying it would create confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family.
Francis dedicated most of his sermon to the synod, which tackled themes such as homosexuality, divorce, re-marriage, and same-sex couples ahead of a definitive gathering next October after more discussions at a local level around the world.
“God is not afraid of new things. That is why he is continuously surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways,” he said.
The beatification followed the certification in May of a miracle attributed to Paul’s intercession: the healing in 2001 of an unborn child whom doctors expected to be born with a number of birth defects, according to the New York Times.
A second miracle would be required for him to become a saint, it said.
Paul was the first and only pope to visit Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported.
His visit was a three-hour stopover in 1970 when the city was a British colony, the report said. He held mass at the Happy Valley racecourse.
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