Pope Francis paves the way for Carlo Acutis to become the first millennial saint

Pope Francis has paved the way for an Italian teenager to become the first millennial saint by crediting him with a second miracle, the Vatican announced Thursday.

The teenager, Carlo Acutis, is often called the patron saint of the Internet among Roman Catholics because of his computer skills, which he used to share his faith. He died of leukemia in 2006 when he was just 15 years old.

Carlo was born in London to Italian parents and moved with his family to Milan when he was a child. His passion for Catholicism blossomed early, his mother, Antonia Acutis, told the New York Times in an interview in 2020. At age 7, he began attending daily Mass. His faith inspired his mother to rejoin the church, he said.

He was called to serve, finding ways to help the less fortunate and donating to those without homes, he said. In the months before his death, Carlo used his self-taught digital skills to create a website to archive miracles. He also liked playing football and video games.

After his death, Ms. Acutis told the Times that people from around the world had told her of medical miracles, including cures for infertility and cancer, that occurred after she prayed to her son.

“Carlo was the lighthearted answer to the dark side of the web,” his mother said, adding that some admirers had called him an “influencer for God.”

Carlo's life “can be used to show how the Internet can be used for good, to spread good things,” Ms. Acutis added.

Charles' journey to canonization began in 2020, after the diocese of Assisi, where his family owned property, petitioned the Vatican to recognize him as a saint.

In February 2020, Pope Francis credited Carlo with healing a boy with a malformed pancreas after the child came into contact with one of his T-shirts. Charles was the first millennial to be “beatified,” or blessed by the church, another step on the path to sainthood.

The final step is for the pope to approve a second miracle.

According to the Vatican, the second miracle involved the recovery of a Costa Rican university student who suffered a serious head injury after falling from her bicycle in Florence. The woman needed major brain surgery and doctors had warned that survival rates were low. The woman's mother went to Assisi to pray for her daughter at Carlo's tomb at the Sanctuary of Renunciation and ask for Carlo's intercession.

The young woman quickly began to show signs of improvement in breathing, mobility and speech, the Vatican said. Ten days after the woman's mother visited Charles' grave, a CT scan showed that the bleeding in the woman's brain had disappeared, and she was subsequently transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

The Pope said Thursday that he will convene a meeting of cardinals to evaluate Charles' sanctity. The Vatican has not announced a date for the formal canonization ceremony.

Charles' path to becoming the first millennial saint is a milestone, said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame and author of the book “A Saint of Our Own: How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American.” Carlo has used the Internet and his computer skills to spread his faith, giving the Catholic Church an opportunity to show a more positive side on social media, he said. Making Carlo a saint can also help the Church connect with young Catholics, many of whom have become increasingly disengaged, he said.

“This is an example of a person like them, who can hopefully bring them back into the church,” Professor Cummings said.

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