The Vatican has recognised a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul I, a step towards sainthood for one of the shortest serving heads of the Catholic Church.

The move comes four decades after the death in 1978 of John Paul I, the last Italian pope and a mild-mannered former archbishop of Venice, sometimes known as the "Smiling Pope".

Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Vatican body that determines sainthood, to recognise "the miracle attributed to the intervention of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul I".

The miracle attributed to Albino Luciani, the late pope's real name, was the sudden healing of a gravely ill 11-year-old girl in Buenos Aires in 2011, after a local priest prayed to John Paul I.

In the Catholic Church, a miracle allows someone to be beatified - to become "blessed" - but in most cases a second miracle must be recognised before they can be made a saint.

John Paul I's 33-day pontificate was one of the shortest in the history of the Catholic Church.

Elected pope in August 1978 at the age of 65, he died 33 days later, apparently from a heart attack, although there were suspicions that he was killed.

Among the most recent popes, Paul VI (1963-1978) was beatified, while his predecessor John XXIII (1958-1963) and John Paul II (1978-2005) were proclaimed saints.

From the RTÉ Archives
Death of the 33-day pope