Pope Paul VI, first pontiff to visit Israel, moving closer to sainthood

ROME (JTA) – Pope Paul VI, the first pontiff to visit Israel, will be beatified in October, moving him a step closer to sainthood.

The Vatican made the announcement Saturday after Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to Paul. The ceremony will take place Oct. 19.

Paul VI, who reigned from 1963 to 1978, visited Jerusalem in January 1964 on a brief trip to Israel and Jordan. It was the first time a reigning pope had visited the Holy Land.

At the time, the Vatican did not recognize Israel as a state — Israel and the Holy See established full diplomatic relations in 1993. Also, his trip came before the landmark Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965 that opened the way to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Pope Francis will visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority at the end of May, in part to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s trip. Both of Francis’s predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, visited Israel.

In a joint ceremony two weeks ago, Francis canonized Paul VI’s immediate predecessor, Pope John XXIII, as well as John Paul II, who followed Paul after the three-week reign of John Paul I.

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