VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Sunday beatified Pope Paul VI, concluding the remarkable meeting of bishops debating family issues that drew parallels to the tumultuous reforms of the Second Vatican Council which Paul oversaw and implemented. The mass took place hours after Catholic bishops approved a document charting a more pastoral approach to ministering to Catholic families. They failed to reach consensus on the two most divisive issues at the synod: on welcoming gays and divorced and civilly remarried couples.
"God is not afraid of new things!" Francis exclaimed in his homily Sunday. "That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways." He quoted Paul himself as saying the church must monitor signs of the times to make sure it adapts methods to respond to the "changing conditions of society." Paul was elected in 1963 to succeed the popular Pope John XXIII, and during his 15-year reign was responsible for charting the church through the tumultuous years of the 1960s sexual revolution.
He is perhaps best known for the divisive 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which enshrined the church's opposition to artificial contraception. The beatification marks the third 20th century pope Francis has elevated this year. Paul was beatified, the first step toward possible sainthood, after the Vatican certified a miracle attributed to his intercession concerning a California boy whom doctors had said would be born with serious birth defects.
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