The priest who brought the case to Rome reflects on Pope Paul's challenges in his own time, and in his work from Heaven
Blessed Pope Paul VI, pope from 1963-1978, will be canonized this Sunday in a ceremony celebrated by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square.
Along the path to the canonization, we find a miracle attributed to the Pontiff’s intercession: the healthy birth of an Italian girl in 2014, even though the amniotic sac had been pierced during an amniocentesis — an accident that is usually fatal to the baby.
This miracle is an “encouragement for families to have children,” said Father Pablo Zambruno, whom the diocese of Verona, Italy, put in charge of recognizing this miracle.
What does this miracle of Paul VI teach us?
Father Zambruno explains:
We can learn so much from this miracle. First, we need to understand the complexity of the phase in the history of the Church in which Paul VI lived, and how he was a true sign of contradiction.
He was criticized both from the left and the right. There were some who accused him of wanting to desacralize the liturgy, and of betrayal in the case of Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty (1892-1975). [In the context of complicated relations between the Vatican and the Soviets, Paul VI arranged for Mindszenty, who was persecuted by the Soviet government of Hungary, to leave his native land as an exile, and when the Cardinal Archbishop refused to renounce his title as Archbishop and Primate, the pope eventually stripped him of his post, Ed.].
And there were those who accused Paul VI of being out of touch because of his encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968) [forbidding artificial contraception, Ed.].
Regarding this miracle, it is clear that it is related to Humanae Vitae. This miracle seems to say that the natural order revealed by Paul VI is the foundation of humanity, the first divine revelation. It also affirms that the embryo is a person. This miracle thus upholds paragraph 14 of the encyclical, which states that abortion is “absolutely excluded […] even for therapeutic reasons.”
Does this miracle carry a message for all Christians?
On the natural level, I think that this miracle has a message for all humanity: to respect life, and to protect it. It is also an encouragement for families to have children, who become witnesses of the parents’ conjugal love. And above all, and including in the domain of procreation, with the respect due to each person, we must listen to nature, for God forgives always, and man sometimes, but nature never.
How has the family experienced this miracle?
For the parents, this miracle was a beautiful challenge to the whole world. Only their faith and love for their unborn child pushed them to continue the pregnancy. There was the anguish of knowing that the baby would suffer without amniotic fluid and there was also the certainty of knowing that if she was born alive, she would be without lungs or a brain… But confidence in the intercession of Pope Paul VI made them hope despite everything. Their faith saved them.
Unfortunately, the parents and the child may not make it for the canonization Mass of 14 October. For my part, I will have the grace of concelebrating.