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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Pope clears way for first millennial saint, dubbed ‘God’s Influencer’

    An early-aughts blog is probably not where you’d expect to find the next Mother Teresa, but that is where Carlo Acutis — soon to become the first millennial saint in the Catholic church — made a name for himself documenting miracles.

    The Holy See said Thursday that Pope Francis has recognized a second miracle linked to Acutis, paving the way for his canonization — the final step in a process that can sometimes take decades. It will place the online evangelizer — who died in 2006 from leukemia at age 15 — among thousands of saints recognized by the church.

    The Catholic Church has struggled to pull in young people as it wrestles with criticism of its outdated practices, views of gender equality and sexual abuse scandals that have alienated its members. Pope Francis has made efforts to increase inclusivity in the deeply hierarchical institution, such as by allowing blessings for same-sex couples and calling on theologians to “demasculinize” the church, often drawing ire from conservatives.

    Vatican News, the official news portal of the Holy See, on Thursday announced multiple developments related to the canonization of new saints, but “for young Catholics, the most interesting is surely the recognition of a miracle attributed to Blessed Carlo Acutis.”

    Born in London in 1991, Acutis has drawn a following for his piety and meticulous research on miracles, which he publicized online. One Catholic publication dubbed him “God’s Influencer,” while another site described him as a teen with a “strong faith and a weakness for Nutella.” Vatican News wrote that he loved soccer, video games and was a “natural jokester.”

    When Acutis was beatified in 2020, white-cloaked Holy See officials gathered around a massive portrait of the teen, showing him wearing a red polo shirt and a backpack. The following year, an estimated 117,000 people visited the tomb where his body is on display in the Nike sneakers, jeans and track jacket he was buried in, according to the Catholic News Service.

    Starting at age 11, Acutis began investigating Eucharistic miracles — when the bread and wine served at Catholic Mass, believed to be the body and blood of Christ, are said to take on the biological characteristics of human flesh or blood. An exhibition of his project went on to be displayed at thousands of churches around the world.

    Those around him were “astonished by his ability to understand the hidden secrets of computing, which are normally accessible only to those who have studied at university level,” according to a website advocating for his sainthood. During Acutis’s beatification, Pope Francis said he “grasped the needs of his time.”

    The process of becoming a saint typically begins when a bishop opens an investigation into the life of a deceased person with a reputation for “exceptional holiness,” according to the USC Dornsife website — at which point that person can be declared a “Servant of God.” With further research, they can reach the next title, “Venerable.” To be beatified or recognized as “Blessed,” the Vatican usually must recognize at least one miracle the person performed. Two miracles are typically required for canonization.

    The second miracle, announced Thursday, reportedly involved a woman from Costa Rica who in 2022 prayed at Acutis’s tomb in Assisi, Italy, after her daughter fell from her bicycle, suffering severe head trauma that doctors said she was not likely to survive. Vatican News reported that days after the woman’s visit to the tomb, a CT scan “proved that her [daughter’s] hemorrhage had disappeared.”

    In 2020, the church recognized his first miracle, involving a Brazilian boy who was allegedly healed from a pancreatic birth defect after his mother prayed to Acutis.

    Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, said he was “delighted by the news of Carlo Acutis’s canonization,” noting that he recently visited a diocese in California where young people go on pilgrimage and carry out community service in honor of Acutis.

    “His canonization demonstrates that being young is not a barrier to holiness, but being young is a gift to the Church and to the world,” Orobator said.

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