Pope Benedict XVI authorized an investigation on Dec. 20 which could result in proclaiming the late pontiff, Paul VI, a saint.
The Pope formally allowed the move as the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints wrote a decree stating that Paul VI had “heroic virtue,” the first step necessary in the canonization process.
The pontiff met with congregation head cardinal Angelo Amato on Thursday to let him begin the review of the “Humanae Vitae” author.
During their meeting, the Pope also authorized the congregation to continue several other canonization processes, which are usually long and complex.
They include Italian Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Colombia native Blessed Laura of St. Catherine of Sienna, as well as one Mexican, Blessed Maria Guadalupe, after miracles were attributed to all three.
He also gave the go ahead to continue the process for several martyrs, people with “heroic virtues,” and people who have had miracles proven to be attributed to them.
The list includes 33 Spaniards killed in the country's civil war between 1936 and 1939, a period when the revolutionaries killed numerous religious and practicing Catholics.
“It is more than likely that Paul VI will be beatified in 2013 at the end of the Year of Faith,” wrote La Stampa journalist Andrea Tornielli in Vatican Insider.
He noted that, just like with John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI “has closely followed the steps that has led to today's decree.”
Paul VI was the one who named Pope Benedict a cardinal, which allowed to participate in choosing a pope in two conclaves held in 1978.
The late pontiff, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was the son of a middle class lawyer, who was also a politician and journalist.
He was ordained a priest aged 22 and served as pope from 1963 to 1978, and ended the Second Vatican Council after his predecessor, pope John XXIII, had initiated it one year earlier.
He was the last pope to be crowned after he dissolved many of the Church's old traditions.
Paul VI also concluded the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the largest revision of the Church's Liturgy and the first major revision since the Council of Trent, held 400 years earlier.
He published the controversial encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in 1968 which reaffirmed the Church's stance against contraception, as well as firm affirmation of the merits of priestly celibacy.
According to Vatican journalist Tornielli, the congregation will investigate an alleged miraculous healing of a then unborn child took place 16 years ago in California.
Doctors told the pregnant mother to abort after finding a serious problem in the fetus, which normally results in brain damage.
But she entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI and the baby, now around 15 years old, was born without problems.
The congregation may also investigate an alleged miracle after a nun with a tumor was suddenly cured.
The Church has three main steps in making a deceased person a saint, with the first providing proof that the person had “heroic virtue.”
This means the person has practiced outstanding faith, hope and charity as well as extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness over a period of time. The person who the Church declares to have had heroic virtue is given the title “Venerable,” and is also called a “Servant of God.”
The second step is “beatification,” which means the Church recognizes the person is in heaven after a miracle is proven titling them “Blessed.”
And the final step is “canonization,” where the Pope himself officially proclaims the person a saint.