Carlo Acutis, who died of leukaemia in 2006, aged 15, is headed towards becoming the first millennial saint.
Acutis, who has already been dubbed “the patron saint of the internet”, created a website to document miracles and helped run websites for Catholic organisations. On Saturday, his beatification ceremony was held at Italy’s Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, where a portrait of the late teenager was unveiled, showing him dressed in a red polo with his head surrounded by a halo of light.
Beatification – the last step before sainthood in the Catholic church – requires a miracle to be attributed to the person through prayers made to them after their death. The church says Acutis' miracle took place in 2013, when he answered prayers to save the life of a Brazilian boy suffering from a rare pancreatic disease.
A second miracle is needed to reach sainthood, although that requirement can occasionally be waived by the Pope.
Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that she believed her son had already performed another miracle during his lifetime. “He cured a woman from cancer by praying to the Madonna of Pompeii,” she said.
Acutis was born in London in May of 1991 to Italian parents, who moved to Milan shortly after his birth. While his family weren’t especially devout, he was reportedly intensely religious from an early age, asking his parents to take him inside churches they passed, and to take him on pilgrimages.
The teenager was active in charity work, spending his own money to buy sleeping bags for the homeless and volunteering at a soup kitchen, and was buried in Assisi at his own request due to his admiration for Saint Francis of Assisi and his work helping the poor.
In accordance with Catholic tradition, his body has been exhumed and is lying in a glass tomb, where he can be venerated by pilgrims until Saturday, while his heart will be displayed as a religious relic in the Basilica of St. Francis.
The body of Acutis – who, since his beatification, is now referred to by Catholics as “Blessed” – was displayed wearing jeans and a pair of Nike trainers, the kind of casual clothes he preferred, the Catholic News Agency reported.
Speaking to pilgrims in The Vatican’s St. Peter's Square Sunday, Pope Francis held up Acutis as a role model for Catholic youth.
“He did not settle into comfortable inaction, but grasped the needs of his time because, in the weakest, he saw the face of Christ,” he said.