Pope Francis today 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. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was on hand for the Mass. The bishops 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. "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, particularly the synod of bishops which Paul established, must survey the signs of the times to make sure the church adapts to the "growing needs of our time and 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 implementing the reforms of Vatican II and 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 marked the third 20th century pope Francis has elevated this year: In April, he canonized Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII. Paul is often called the "forgotten" or "misunderstood" pope, caught between the "good pope" John XXIII and the crowd-pleasing, globe-trotting John Paul. (More Pope Francis stories.)