A British-born computer whizz who died from leukaemia aged 15 has been placed on the path to sainthood during a beatification ceremony at a cathedral in Italy.
Carlo Acutis, who was born in London in 1991 to Italian parents before moving as a child to Milan, was honoured with a ceremony at the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi in Assisi, central Italy, on Saturday.
Despite being born to non-practicing Christian parents, Acutis became devout at a young age – asking to be taken into churches aged three. Aged 11, he used his IT skills to create websites documenting miracles. He died in 2006.
The beatification ceremony acknowledges that Acutis has performed one miracle – decreed by Pope Francis to be the healing of a seven-year-old Brazilian boy who was cured of a pancreatic disorder in 2013 after praying to Acutis and coming into contact with a relic, in the form of a piece of his t-shirt.
The beatification ceremony also acknowledges that Acutis has entered heaven, and that people can be saved by praying to him. His name will carry the prefix ‘Blessed’.
Already nicknamed the ‘Patron Saint of the Internet’, Acutis now needs one further miracle attributed to him to be eligible for sainthood. Popes have occasionally waved the need for a second miracle.
Around 3,000 people travelled to Assisi for the ceremony, which saw a procession through the town that included Carlo’s parents Antonia and Andrea, who walked behind a relic containing the boy’s heart.
His preserved body was also on display in a glass case at the Basilica, where he requested to be buried because of his adoration of Saint Francis of Assisi, due to his work with the poor.
The ceremony makes Acutis the first Millennial to be beatified, although not the youngest.
In 2017, two Portuguese children who died in 1917 during the Spanish Flu pandemic aged nine and 10 having claimed to see vision of the Virgin Mary were beatified by Pope Francis. They became Saints in 2019.
Carlo’s mother Antonia has attributed his devotion to the church as bringing her back to her Catholic faith, having fallen out of contact with the church.
‘Carlo saved me. I was an illiterate of faith,’ she said. ‘I came back thanks to Father Ilio Carrai, the Padre Pio of Bologna, otherwise I would have felt discredited in my parental authority.
‘It is a path that continues. I hope to at least wind up in purgatory.’
Aged seven, Carlo asked to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion and was granted an exception. Aged 11, he then became fascinated with Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions – visions involving the Virgin Mary.
Having researched the miracles and apparitions, he used his computer skills to create website documenting their histories, which brought him to the attention of the Vatican.
He also used his IT skills to create websites for several local churches, helping to spread the faith.
During a homily delivered during the beatification on Saturday, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the Assisi basilicas, said: ‘Carlo used the internet in service of the Gospel, to reach as many people as possible.
He adding that the teen saw the web ‘as a place to use with responsibility, without becoming enslaved.’
Acutis fell ill in 2006 while considering becoming a priest, with what his parents initially thought was flu, Vatican News reported.
After the infection failed to clear up, he was taken to hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive form of lukaemia – cancer of the blood. He died a short time later.
Acutis told his mother that he would give her many signs of his presence after death.
‘Before he left us, I told him: If in heaven you find our four-legged friends, look for Billy, my childhood dog that he never knew,’ the mother said.
One day she got a call from an aunt who was unaware of the mother-son pact, saying ‘I saw Carlo in a dream tonight. He was holding Billy in his arms.’