John Paul I, the shortest-reigning pope in almost 400 years, has taken a big step down the road to sainthood. The Vatican says Pope Francis has approved a decree attributing a miracle to his predecessor, who was found dead in his bed from an apparent heart attack just 33 days after he became head of the Catholic church in 1978, reports Reuters. John Paul I will now be beatified, a key step in the sainthood process, but it will take one more miracle before he can become a saint, the AP reports. The pope, who was born Albino Luciani, was 65 years old when he died unexpectedly. He was the last in an unbroken 455-year line of Italian-born popes, having been succeeded by the Polish John Paul II.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which oversees the process, said Francis had acknowledged "a causal link" between prayers to John Paul I and the mysterious recovery of an extremely sick 11-year-old girl in Argentina in 2011, the New York Times reports. The Vatican says the girl was thought to be on the verge of death from acute brain inflammation and other issues when the Buenos Aires hospital's priest "took the initiative to invoke Pope Luciani."
Prayers from the girl's mother and ICU nurses "were exclusively addressed to Pope Luciani," the congregation said in a statement. It said that within a few days, the girl's condition began to improve and she eventually returned to full fitness. The congregation said Vatican doctors certified in 2019 that there was no medical explanation for her recovery. (In 2014, Francis confirmed the sainthood of two other popes, including John Paul II.)