Pope Francis Confirms 'Miracle' to Put John Paul I on Path to Sainthood

Pope Francis has put one his predecessors on the path to sainthood after confirming a "miracle" attributed to the late John Paul I at an audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.

The Vatican issued a statement saying that Francis had authorized a decree regarding a miracle attributed to John Paul I, who was elected to the papacy in 1978 and passed away just 33 days later.

The statement did not provide details of the miracle but it is believed to be the healing of an 11-year-old girl in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The girl was said to be at the end of her life and have "severe acute inflammatory encephalopathy, a malignant refractory epileptic illness and septic shock."

Born Albino Luciani, John Paul I was elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church in 1978 following the death of Paul VI but had one of the shortest papacies in modern history.

His death sparked a wave of conspiracy theories and spawned books and documentaries. It remains a popular topic of speculation and it is believed that John Paul I died of a heart attack.

Following his death, he was succeeded by John Paul II, who took his predecessor's name in honor of him. As a result, 1978 is often known as "the year of three popes."

Francis issued a series of decrees during an audience with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which is responsible for the evaluating candidates for sainthood.

The pope's decree concerned "the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul I (Albino Luciani), Supreme Pontiff; born on 17 October 1912 in Forno di Canale (now Canale d'Agordo), Italy, and died on 28 September 1978 in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Vatican City State."

The Catholic Church believes only God can perform miracles but that those miracles can be brought about through the intercession of those who are deceased

However, it may still take some time before John Paul I officially becomes a saint. Sainthood in the Catholic Church is a long process and the late pope is currently referred to as a Venerable Servant of God. He was named a Servant of God in 2003 and received the additional "venerable" in 2017.

The next stage in the process will see John Paul I beatified, after which he will be referred to as Bless John Paul I. This may take place before Easter this year, according to a report this week from Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

The final stage in the sainthood process is canonization. Ordinarily, at least on miracle is required to be attributed to the intercession of the blessed person after beatification and this requirement can be waived, though that happens rarely. Once approved, Pope Francis, or his successor, will perform a special ceremony to officially name John Paul I a saint.

UPDATE 10/13/21 8.38am E.T.: This article was updated to include more information.

John Paul I Pictured in 1978
Pope John Paul I waves to crowd in St. Peter's Square, from the window of his private study in the Apostolic Palace after blessing faithful for the first time after his election as 263rd Pontiff in 1978. Pope Francis has confirmed a miracle attributed to the late pope. Getty Images