A LONDON-born Italian teenager, Carlo Acutis, who died of acute leukaemia, aged 15, and who had used his computer skills to foster devotion to the eucharist, is to be beatified in Assisi on Saturday, becoming the modern world’s youngest prospective Roman Catholic saint.
“This is a youngster of our time: a model of holiness for the internet age,” the Bishop of Assisi-Nocera, the Most Revd Domenico Sorrentino, explained. “At a time of great excitement, but also of great disorientation, he had a mission for his peers — especially when wonderful things are achieved through a technology which unites the world, but often feeds a tumult of contradictory messages, making it difficult to find a compass of truth and love.”
The Bishop was preaching at a service to open the tomb of Acutis (1991-2006), who will be declared blessed in the Basilica of St Francis, in Assisi, in a ceremony postponed from the spring owing to the coronavirus.
Born when his Italian mother and half-Polish father were studying and working in Britain, Acutis attended a Jesuit-run high school after his family moved back to Milan, but died suddenly on 12 October 2006, by which time he had created a website documenting more than 100 eucharistic miracles in 17 languages (miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html).
A beatification process was launched in 2013 for the teenager, who was reinterred last year in Santa Maria Maggiore, Assisi, and approved by Pope Francis in February after recognition of a miracle involving the cure of a Brazilian boy. In a 2019 exhortation, Christus Vivit (“Christ Lives”), the Pope said that Acutis was aware that “the whole apparatus of communications, advertising, and social networking” could be used to lull the young into an “addiction to consumerism”, but also “to transmit the gospel, and communicate values and beauty”.
A British woman who lived with the family, who were non-practising before the teenager’s death, said that Christians worldwide had found the website information disseminated by Acutis “massively affirming” during recent Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Children sometimes have very intense religious experiences which can’t be properly understood by others,” Anna Johnstone, a Cambridge University theology graduate who also acted as governess to Acutis’s twin siblings, said. “He showed how the power of the lay life rests in simple, regular devotions. If we’re forced to stay home, with churches closed, we can still find a spiritual harbour.”
Acutis will be the 69th Roman Catholic beatified by Pope Francis, who has also canonised 55 saints since his March 2013 election and sought devout role-models for young people.
A beatification process was launched on 12 September by the French diocese of Fréjus-Toulon for an eight-year-old, Anne-Gabrielle Caron, who died in 2010 after a long illness.