John Paul I moves towards sainthood

STORY: Pope Francis beatified his predecessor at a ceremony in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of people.

Beatification is the last step before sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

John Paul was known as "The Smiling Pope" because of his meekness and simplicity.

"With a smile, Pope John Paul managed to communicate the goodness of the Lord," Francis said in his homily, speaking as people huddled under umbrellas in a thunderstorm.

Born Albino Luciani into poverty in a northern Italian mountain village in 1912, he was ordained a priest in 1935, a bishop in 1958 and a cardinal in 1973.

He was elected pope on Aug. 26, 1978 following the death of Pope Paul VI, taking the name John Paul to honour his two immediate predecessors. He was found dead in bed by two nuns on Sept. 29.

Doctors said he died of a heart attack and aides said he had complained of chest pains the day before but did not take them seriously.

At first, the Vatican, uneasy saying two women had entered the pope's bed chambers, said he was found lifeless by a priest. The Vatican corrected itself but the misstep sprouted conspiracy theories.