Pope Paul VI to be beatified after miracle confirmation

The healing of an unborn child has been confirmed by the Vatican as a miracle(AP)

A miraculous healing of an unborn child, following prayers to Pope Paul VI, has been confirmed as genuine by the Vatican, paving the way for the former Pope to be beatified.

The miracle involved healing a foetus from severe bladder injuries and probable brain damage.

Doctors had reported liquid in the child's abdomen, and a lack of fluid in the amniotic sac. They expected the child would either die in the womb, or suffer severe kidney damage and so suggested an abortion.

The mother refused and instead prayed to Paul VI while holding a fragment his vestments given to her by a nun.

Ten weeks later, there was substantial unexplained medical improvement, and the child, now 13, was born successfully by caesarean section.

According to Vatican rules, to be beatified a person needs either one posthumous miracle or to have been a martyr.

Beatification is the final step before Canonisation and Sainthood. To become a saint, a person needs two posthumous miracles (one if they've been martyred).

Paul VI's pontificate lasted from 1963 to 1978. He was widely praised for his attempts to seek out better connections with other Christian denominations. He also drew controversy when in 1968 he instituted a ban on all artificial forms of contraception.

He very nearly became a martyr, when in 1970 he was attacked with a dagger by Bolivian surrealist painter Benjamín Mendoza y Amor Flores.

Investigation into whether Paul VI would make a saint has been ongoing since 1993. One of the other requirements, to be declared 'heroic in virtue', was met in December 2012.

August 2014 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Paul VI's 'Ecclesiam Suam' or His Church, a writing which he drafted and edited entirely himself, about the Catholic Church as the Body of Christ.

The Italian news agency ASNA reports that Paul VI's beatification is expected to be announced by Pope Francis on 19 October.

It will take place in Rome, after the concluding ceremony of Pope Francis's Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.