Pope Francis said the beatification of an Italian computer whiz-kid was a sign to young people that “true happiness comes from putting God first”.
Carlo Acutis, who is on a path to sainthood after being beatified in the Umbrian town of Assisi, helped spread Roman Catholic teaching online before his death from leukaemia aged 15 in 2006. He is the youngest contemporary person to be beatified.
Francis called for a round of applause for the “newly beatified millennial” during his Angelus on Sunday. “His testimony shows today’s young people that true happiness is found by putting God first and serving people, especially among the poorest in society.”
Acutis was born in London before moving to Milan with his Italian parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, as a child. He started to show signs of deep religious devotion in his early childhood. Salzano told the newspaper Corriere della Sera that from the age of three he would ask to visit churches they passed in Milan. He would also donate his pocket money to poor people in the city.
Acutis taught himself to code while still at primary school, before using his skills to create websites for Catholic organisations as well as one that listed miracles.
Acutis was put on the path towards sainthood after Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him: a seven-year-old boy from Brazil recovered from a rare pancreatic disorder after coming into contact with one of Acutis’s T-shirts. A priest had also prayed to Acutis on behalf of the child.
Salzano told Corriere that she was certain her child was a saint when he was alive. “He cured a woman from cancer by praying to the Madonna of Pompeii,” she said. A second approved miracle is required before sainthood is declared, though Pope Francis has waived that on rare occasions.
Acutis died on 12 October 2006 and asked to be buried in Assisi, where he was beatified on Saturday. The teen admired Saint Francis of Assisi because of his dedication to helping the poor, and sought to replicate that in his life.
Pilgrims converged on Assisi for the beatification mass, the majority watching on a big screen outside the Basilica of Saint Francis due to Covid-19 safety restrictions.
Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the basilicas of St Francis and St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, said during his homily that Acutis was a “normal and friendly teenager” who used the internet “in service to the gospel, to reach as many people as possible”.
“The internet was not just a means of escape, but a space for dialogue, knowledge, sharing and mutual respect that was to be used responsibly, without becoming slaves to it and [while] rejecting digital bullying,” he added.
In 2019, Pope Francis paid tribute to Acutis, saying his use of the internet to “communicate values and beauty” was the ideal way to counteract the negative effects of social media.