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Pope Paul VI has been beatified by Pope Francis on the last day of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

This year’s synod of the Catholic Church has ended in clinches over how to minister to gay people or whether to give Holy Communion to Catholics who have divorced and remarried.

Paul VI, who was pontiff from 1963 until his death in 1978, had faced similar pressures during the advent of free love, when the church came out against birth control. Pope Paul VI based the decision on Catholic teachings on marriage.

But the church is honoring other aspects of his work, highlighting his efforts to spread social justice and minister to the poor, topics Pope Francis also carries on his banner.

Paul VI is also known for having pioneered papal world visits, traveling to Africa, Latin America and Asia. He was the first pope to visit five continents, the Vatican has said.

He was also the first pope to visit the Holy Land since St. Peter, the Catholic News Service said.

Pope Paul VI has been beatified by Pope Francis on the last day of the Synod of Bishops on the Family

Pope Paul VI has been beatified by Pope Francis on the last day of the Synod of Bishops on the Family

A trip to the Philippines in 1970 could have cost him his life, but it also provided one of the two necessary precursors for his beatification, a relic.

When he was attacked by a man with a bayonet in Manila, two vests he was wearing were stained with blood, according to historian John-Peter Pham. One of the vests was brought to the beatification in a reliquary.

The second precursor required for beatification is a miracle. Pope Paul VI’s involves an unborn child in California, Vatican Radio said.

A doctor advised a pregnant woman to abort her child because of danger to her life and his, but she refused and instead had a nun pray for her using a photo of Pope Paul, CNS reported. The child was born healthy.

The announcement of Pope Paul VI’s beatification came in May, two weeks after Pope Francis canonized two other predecessors, John XXIII and John Paul II, allowing them to ascend to sainthood.

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Pope Francis has beatified 124 of South Korea’s first Catholics at a large open-air Mass in Seoul on Saturday.

The pontiff paid tribute to the Koreans, who died for their faith in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

It comes on the third day of his visit to South Korea – his first trip to Asia since becoming pope in March 2013.

Pope Francis also met survivors of the Sewol ferry disaster and delivered his first public mass in the region on Friday.

The beautification ceremony was held at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance.

Beatification, or declaring a person “blessed”, is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.

Pope Francis is spending five days in South Korea, where the Catholic Church is growing. It currently has just over 5.4 million members, some 10.4% of the population.

Crowds of worshippers lined the streets leading up to Gwanghwamun Plaza for Saturday’s ceremony. The square was the site where unrepentant Catholics were paraded before they were publicly executed.

Pope Francis has beatified 124 of South Korea's first Catholics at a large open-air Mass in Seoul

Pope Francis has beatified 124 of South Korea’s first Catholics at a large open-air Mass in Seoul (photo EPA)

“They were willing to make great sacrifices and let themselves be stripped of whatever kept them from Christ – possessions and land, prestige and honor – for they knew that Christ alone was their true treasure,” Pope Francis told the crowd in his sermon.

“They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.”

the people who were beatified today were the founders of the Catholic Church in South Korea 200 years ago .

They were also unique because they were not converted by missionaries who came to Korea but they learnt about Catholicism themselves and brought the books back to Korea to spread the Catholic Church and were executed by the royal authorities for doing so.

On Friday, Pope Francis held Mass for tens of thousands of people gathered at a football stadium in Daejeon, his first public event since arriving in South Korea.

In his address, the pope warned Catholics of a “cancer” of despair in materially-obsessed societies, saying that materialism was spreading like a spiritual desert across the affluent world.

Before Mass got underway, he met with some of the survivors and relatives of the Sewol ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people in April this year.

He was later greeted by a rapturous crowd of some 10,000 youths in Dangjin, where he spoke briefly off-the-cuff in English, acknowledging his difficulties with the language.

There he urged South Koreans to pray for unification with the north.

“Let us pray for our brothers in the north,” Pope Francis said.

Meanwhile, China’s leadership failed to receive a telegram sent by the Pope as he flew over the country on his way to South Korea, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Friday.

It is traditional for the pontiff to send blessings to the leadership of a country he flies over, but this was the first time a pope had been permitted to use Chinese air space.

The gesture is seen as significant because the Vatican and China have had no formal ties since the Communist party took power in 1949.

A technical glitch was thought to have stopped the message from being received, which was later resent via the Italian embassy in Beijing, Father Federico Lombardi said.

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Pope Francis approved a miracle credited to the intercession of Pope Paul VI – who died in 1978 after a 15-year pontificate and is remembered by many for his ban on artificial contraception for Catholics.

Pope Paul VI’s beatification ceremony will be held at the Vatican on October 19, Pope Francis announced.

The move came two weeks after the canonization of two other 20th Century popes – John XXIII and John Paul II.

Beatification is the third of four steps in the process by which someone officially becomes a saint.

It requires at least one miracle to have been attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood who, once beatified, is given the title blessed.

Pope Paul VI’s beatification ceremony will be held at the Vatican on October 19

Pope Paul VI’s beatification ceremony will be held at the Vatican on October 19

After beatification, a separate miracle would have to be verified in order for Paul VI to be canonized – declared a saint – allowing him to be venerated by the universal Church as “an example of holiness that can be followed with confidence”.

Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Montini in the Lombardy region of Italy in 1897, the son of a prominent newspaper editor.

He was elected pope in 1963 and continued the reforms of his predecessor, John XXIII.

Paul VI died in August 1978 and was succeeded briefly by Pope John Paul who died in October 1978.

During his 15-year pontificate Pope Paul VI wrote seven encyclicals – the most controversial of which was Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), published in 1968.

Its uncompromising position on birth control led to protests around the Catholic world and some national Roman Catholic Church hierarchies openly modified the statement.

In 1995 Pope John Paul II supported Paul VI’s view on birth control in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

October’s beatification ceremony will be held at the end of a crucial meeting of global bishops to discuss Catholic teaching on family life, called by Pope Francis.

As is customary, the Vatican gave no details about the miracle – which the Holy See requires must be a phenomenon certified by doctors as having no medical explanation.

However, Italian media report the miracle involved a Californian baby who was born healthy despite the pre-birth diagnoses of a ruptured foetal bladder and absence of amniotic fluid.

The mother reportedly refused to abort the child, instead praying for Paul VI’s intercession at the behest of a nun.