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
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.
Eduardo Leite, a Brazilian construction worker, has survived after a 2 m (six-foot) steel rod fell from above and pierced his head, doctors who treated him say.
Eduardo Leite was taken to a Rio de Janeiro hospital, where the rod was removed after five hours of surgery.
The doctors said he responded well to surgery, suffered no adverse consequences and has experienced little pain.
He narrowly escaped partial paralysis and loss of an eye, they added.
Eduardo Leite has survived after a 6-foot steel rod fell from above and pierced his head
The rod is said to have fallen from the fifth floor of a building under construction.
It pierced Eduardo Leite’s hard hat, then the back of his skull, before exiting between his eyes.
Luis Alexandre Essinger, chief of staff at the Miguel Couto hospital, said Eduardo Leite was conscious when he arrived there and explained what had happened to him.
“He was taken to the operating room, his skull was opened, they examined the brain and the surgeon decided to pull the metal bar out from the front in the same direction it entered the brain,” he said.
Eduardo Leite had “few complaints” after the surgery, Alexandre Essinger added, saying “it really was a miracle” that he survived.
Neurosurgeon Ruy Monteiro told local TV that the bar had entered a part of the brain with no specific major known function.
The victim is expected to stay in hospital for another two weeks, and will be given antibiotics to avoid risk of infection.
Ryan Marquiss is the first child in the world to survive being born with his heart outside of his body.
Having the heart outside the body, ectopia cordis, is an incredibly rare condition and usually babies are stillborn or die within three days.
Ryan Marquiss’ heart also hadn’t developed and so he only had half a heart – a combination of defects which is so rare that the boy is the only one of his kind in the world.
Doctors advised his devastated parents to terminate the pregnancy when Ryan Marquiss’ mother was just 12 weeks pregnant, but they bravely refused.
And it is a gamble that has paid off, as the boy is just about to celebrate his third birthday.
His mother, Leighann Marquiss, 34, said: “We wanted to let nature take its course, so we refused to have the termination.
“We knew it would be a miracle if he survived the birth but we were unwilling to take matters into our own hands.
“The doctors told us that no baby with Ryan’s combination of defects had ever survived, so the fact that he is here with us today, is just amazing. He really has astounded everyone.”
Doctors discovered the problem at 12 weeks into his mother’s pregnancy.
Ryan Marquiss is the first child in the world to survive being born with his heart outside of his body
The incredibly rare defect, ectopia cordis, affects only 8 in every million births and 90% of these are stillborn or die within three days.
And adding to that Ryan was also suffering from hypoplastic right heart syndrome, where only the left side of the heart has developed properly.
Leighann Marquiss, who lives with husband Henry, 34, and their other children Natalie, 7, and Ainsley, 5, in Pennsylvania, USA, said: “All the odds were stacked against him. We knew that it was a miracle that he had been born alive with his heart outside his body, but then to have another life-threatening condition of only having half a heart meant that everything was against him surviving.”
Doctors advised Ryan Marquiss’ parents to terminate the pregnancy when his mother was just 12 weeks pregnant, but they bravely refused and the boy the boy is just about to celebrate his third birthday
Doctors at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington delivered him at the end of February 2009 by caesarian, helped by a team of 30 medical professionals.
Dr. Mary Donofrio, Director of the fetal heart programme at the Children’s National Medical Centre said: “If he survived the birth his exposed heart likely would become infected and kill him. Even if infection didn’t happen his heart had one working ventricle and he would require open heart surgery to rewire the blood flow through it.
“I told the family right from the start that if he survived, it was a miracle.”
Leighann Marquiss said: “His heart was protruding out of his chest cavity. The heart was only covered by a thin membrane.
“But he was alive and we just had to pray that he would carry on fighting.”
Ryan Marquiss had to have an operation at just two weeks old to have a central shunt placed in his heart to ensure proper blood flow.
Then he underwent more than a dozen operations over the next two years. He had operations to replumb his heart so that the half a heart would do the job of a full size heart. Doctors also put tissue expanders under his skin to produce more skin so they could use it to cover his exposed heart.
Mrs Marquiss said: “He has done amazingly well. He has been so brave throughout it, and his sisters have kept him going too. They have been to see him in hospital and made recordings of themselves at home, so Ryan could hear them.
“He just kept on fighting. He refused to die, and he kept on proving everyone wrong.
“He will need some sort of chest protection operation in the future but it may be overcome by just wearing some sort of protective padding when he plays sport. He won’t be a competition athlete, but we are hoping he can run around on the playground and climb trees like any other child.”
Ryan Marquiss’ case has now been reported in a medical journal. Doctors believe that his survival offers hope for other babies with serious heart defects.
In the future he may require a heart transplant, but at the moment, he is progressing well.
His mother said: “He really is a medical miracle. When I look at him running around the playground and playing on the climbing wall, I praise God. Every day with Ryan is one we were told we wouldn’t have. So we cherish each moment.”