By Christopher Wells
“Paul VI will be a saint this year.”
Pope Francis seemed to confirm the imminent canonization of his predecessor, Paul VI, in a dialogue with Rome’s parish priests earlier this week at the Lateran Basilica.
“There are two Bishops of Rome who are already saints,” he said, referring to the two most recent Popes to be canonized: St John XXIII, and St John Paul II. More than 80 popes are recognized as saints by the Catholic Church. Several others have active “causes” including Pius IX – who, like Paul VI, has already been beatified – and Pius XII, whose “heroic virtues” have been recognized, making him “Venerable.” In his remarks on Thursday, Pope Francis mentioned the cause of John Paul I, who is also Venerable, and whose cause is ongoing.
“And [Pope emeritus] Benedict [XVI] and I are on the waiting list,” Pope Francis said, jokingly. “Pray for us!”
In his homily for the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he had beatified Paul VI, Pope Francis referred to his predecessor as a “great Pope,” and a “tireless Apostle,” courageous in his “humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!” Paul, he said, “before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.” Paul VI, he concluded, “truly ‘rendered to God what is God’s’ by devoting his whole life to the ‘sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ,’ loving the Church and leading her so that she might be ‘a loving Mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation’.”