Detroit — Pope Francis on Thursday announced the beatification of Father Solanus Casey — a significant step toward canonization as a saint for the beloved Detroit priest.

Casey died in 1957 at age 86. He was a member of the Capuchin Franciscan Order of St. Joseph and one of the founders of Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Pope John Paul II granted him “venerable” status for a life of uncommon virtue in the service of God in 1995.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said the beatification of Casey “is an incomparable grace” for the church and the Detroit area. Casey was known for his gentle nature and healing powers. His reputation as a healer took root in the 1920s.

“He is an inspiration to all us Catholics — and to all — of the power of grace to transform one’s life,” Vigneron said in a statement.

Pope Francis made his announcement in Rome, the archdiocese said.

The Archdiocese of Detroit this year has been holding public events to remember Casey. His tomb in Detroit attracts visitors seeking to pay their respects or receive blessings from Casey. Some Catholics believe he interceded to bring miracles in their lives or the lives of loved ones.

“Long before we knew and loved Pope Francis, we had the example of Father Solanus,” said Father Michael Sullivan, provincial minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph. “Known for his compassion and simplicity, he drew many thousands to God.”

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