ROME – Pope Francis has paved the way for the canonization of Pope Paul VI, who led the Roman Catholic Church through turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s, and the slain Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero, the Vatican announced Wednesday.
Francis approved the decrees Tuesday confirming miracles attributed to the intercession of the former pontiff and the Salvadoran archbishop, the Holy See said in a statement.
The miracle attributed to Paul VI involves the healing of a seriously ill fetus, according to the Diocese of Brescia, where the pope was born. In the case of Romero, the nature of the miracle has not been made public, but Vatican journalists have speculated that it concerned a woman whose pregnancy presented serious risks for her and her baby, and who healed inexplicably.
The approval of the miracles was the last step required for Paul VI and Romero to be canonized. No dates for the canonizations have officially been set.
Romero of San Salvador, who defended the poor and the oppressed in his homilies and radio broadcasts, was shot and killed while he was saying mass in a hospital chapel in El Salvador on March 24, 1980.
Months before, on the eve of the country’s civil war, Romero had angered many in the country’s military dictatorship by asking the United States to halt military aid to El Salvador and by repeatedly calling for an end to the brutal killings of political opponents.
“The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” he had said.
Romero’s beatification was stalled for years at the Vatican, as many frowned on his association with leftist political views, liberation theology and communism.
Francis, however, declared the archbishop a model of peace and forgiveness in 2015, honoring the Salvadoran as a martyr in “hatred of the faith.” The pope beatified the archbishop in San Salvador months later.
Giovanni Battista Montini, cardinal of Milan, was elected pope in 1963. During his 15-year pontificate, he shepherded the church through a period of enormous internal change as well as social and political upheaval, trying to bring together progressive and conservative positions in the church.
Paul VI was the first pope to travel to Latin America, where he presided over the assembly of local bishops in 1968. There, officials agreed that the church should have a “preferential option for the poor,” a tenet of Francis’ pontificate.
After the Second Vatican Council, in the early 1960s, Paul VI created the Synod of Bishops, an assembly to promote better dialogue among clerics and the Vatican. But he also reached out to other faiths, promoting ecumenism in the six continents he visited. He was the first pope to travel to Israel, in 1964, doing so even before the Vatican recognized the state.