ASSISI, Italy – A 15-year-old Italian computer whiz who died of leukemia in 2006 moved a step closer to possible sainthood Saturday with his beatification in the town of Assisi, where he is buried.
Carlo Acutis is the youngest contemporary person to be beatified, a path taken by two Portuguese shepherd children living in the early 1900s who were proclaimed Catholic saints in 2017.
At the beatification ceremony in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, a portrait of Acutis was slowly unveiled, revealing a smiling teen in a red polo shirt, his curly dark hair illuminated by a halo of light. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the Assisi basilicas, kissed each of the boy’s mask-wearing parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, after reading the proclamation decreed by Pope Francis.
Already touted as the “patron saint of the internet,” Acutis created a website to catalog miracles and took care of websites for some local Catholic organizations. While still in elementary school, Acutis taught himself to code using a university computer science textbook, and then learned how to edit videos and create animation.
“Carlo used the internet in service of the Gospel, to reach as many people as possible,” the cardinal said during his homily, adding that the teen saw the web “as a place to use with responsibility, without becoming enslaved.”
Acutis was born in London on May 3, 1991, to Italian parents and moved to Milan as a child. He showed a strong religious devotion that surprised his non-practicing parents. His mother told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that from age 3 he would ask to visit churches they passed in Milan, and by age 7 had asked to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Acutis died of acute leukemia on Oct. 12, 2006.
He was put on the road to sainthood after Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Acutis: The healing of a 7-year-old Brazilian boy from a rare pancreatic disorder after coming into contact with an Acutis relic, a piece of one of his T-shirts.
Another verified miracle is necessary for sainthood, although Pope Francis has waived that on rare occasions.