Pope Francis recognized on Wednesday the heroic virtue of seven persons on the path of canonization, including a young Italian laywoman, as well as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Bl. Louis and Zelie will be canonized this autumn.

Francis met March 18 with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, giving the green light for the causes to move forward.

While the miracle attributed to the Martins was formally recognized only today, Cardinal Amato had informally announced to journalists several weeks ago that the couple would be canonized in October, the same month as the Synod on the Family.

On that occasion, the cardinal referred to the French spouses noting that "the saints are not only priests and religious, but also lay persons."

Louis and Zelie were beatified Oct. 19, 2008 by Benedict XVI, and their canonization will be the first of its kind, in which a married couple are jointly proclaimed saints.

Married in 1858 just three months after meeting each other, Bl. Louis and Zelie lived in celibacy for nearly a year, but eventually went on to have nine children. Four died in infancy, while the remaining five daughters entered religious life.

Zelie died from cancer in 1877, leaving Louis to care for their five young daughters: Marie, Pauline, Leonie, Celine and Therese, who was only four at the time. Louis died in 1894 after suffering two strokes in 1889, followed by five years of serious drawn-out illness.

In addition to the couple's miracle, the heroic virtue of seven individuals, now referred to as Venerables, were recognized.

Maria Orsola Bussone was born in Vallo Torinese in 1954, and became involved in the Focolare movement after attending a retreat led by the movement's leaders as a young teenager.

The retreat marked a revolution in Bussone's thinking, and she began a process of continuous self-examination in which she compared herself to the models of Jesus and Mary. She committed herself to love God especially in the service of others.

In addition to what she wrote in her diary, Bussone also wrote several letters to her friends which demonstrated her level of maturity, and in which she told them about her desire to see God in others.

Bussone wrote in one letter that "at the end of our life, God will not ask us if we have been behaving like this or that person, if we have understood what we had been told about him, but he will ask us if we have loved him in our brothers and sisters, and we shall have to answer for the talents he was given us and if we have made them work."

She died after being shocked by a faulty hairdryer in Ca' Savio, Italy in 1970 while helping to lead summer camp at the age of 16. She was declared a Servant of God by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Other causes approved for heroic virtue are that of Petar Barbaric, who was a novice with the Jesuits. He was born in 1984 in Klobuk, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and died in 1897 just before his 23rd birthday.

Elisa Baldo Foresti was a widow and founder of the Holy Home of St. Joseph in Gavardo, as well as cofounder of the Humble Servants of the Lord.

Among the other founders recognized for heroic virtue are Fr. Francesco Gattola, a diocesan priest and founder of the Daughters of the Most Holy Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes; Mary Aikenhead, founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity of Ireland and Sister Vincenta of the Passion of the Lord, a Pole who founded the Benedictine Samaritan Sisters of the Cross of Christ.

The cause of Sister Juana of the Cross, a professed religious with Franciscan Nuns of the Third Order Regular and Abbess of the Santa Maria de la Cruz convent in Cubas del la Sagra, Spain, was also advanced with the approval of her heroic virtue.