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Paul VI advances down path toward sainthood

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The late pontiff Paul VI, who led an era of church reforms and issued a ban on contraception, is progressing along the path to possible sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree Thursday recognizing the "heroic virtues" of the Italian, who served as pontiff from 1963-1978. To be beatified, the last formal step before sainthood, a miracle achieved through Paul VI's intercession must be recognized by the Vatican.

Paul gained prominence at the Vatican as a close aide to wartime pontiff Pius XII and later led the Milan archdiocese. Elected pontiff in 1963, Paul continued the groundbreaking liberalizing reforms started by predecessor Pope John XXIII, traveled worldwide and promoted better relations among Christians.

His 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae," which forbids Catholics to use contraception, was highly controversial.

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