Vatican considers Italian teenager deceased as internet patron

The good news for anyone praying for a little less vitriol online or a much faster internet connection is that the Vatican is on the case.

Proving that it has a foot in the 21st century, the old institution endorses a 15-year-old computer genius to become the first patron of the Internet.

Carlo Acutis, an Italian schoolboy who helped spread Roman Catholic teaching online before he died of leukemia in 2006, is the perfect candidate to become the protector of netizens, said Cardinal Angelo Becciu, head of the department of creation of saints. from the Vatican.

“That is my hope: it would be an ideal example for all young people,” said Becciu, whose official title is head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Carlo became deeply religious during his middle-class childhood in Milan and would donate his pocket money to the poor residents of the city.

Crucially, he used his prodigious coding talent to establish websites for priests. At the age of 10, he began creating an online exhibition on religious miracles, which has gained great popularity since his death.

Hundreds of parishes around the world have printed material from the site to create their own displays in real life.

Last year, Pope Francis paid tribute to the teenager, declaring that his use of the Internet to “communicate values ​​and beauty” was the perfect antidote to the dangers of social media. In a document he wrote after a synod on youth, Francis quoted a phrase coined by Carlo that warns other young people not to lose their individuality on the Internet: “All are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.”

After quoting the phrase, Francis added: “Don’t let this happen.”

As Carlo’s fame spread, Catholics began to pray to him, and in February, the pope attributed a miracle to the teenager, causing his beatification, the first step in becoming a saint. The beatification ceremony will take place on October 10 in the central Italian city of Assisi (of San Francisco fame).

The miracle in 2013 involved the rapid and inexplicable healing of a 6-year-old Brazilian boy suffering from a severe congenital deformation of the pancreas. A priest prayed to Carlo on behalf of the boy.

“The boy was vomiting and risked dying. Then, on the third day of prayer, he began to eat, ”said Antonia Salzano, Carlo’s mother, who works in publications. Her father works in the insurance business.

“We get news of miracles attributed to Carlo all the time,” said Salzano, 53. “A woman was cured of her cancer after attending her funeral, and I learned of two more a few days ago.”

He added that he could not understand how Carlo’s fame had spread since his death. “It is a mystery. I feel the finger of God,” he said. “Losing your child is the most terrible thing, but we are happy that he is helping people discover their faith.”

Salzano recalled that Carlo only had “a very basic computer”, but that he would study university textbooks to learn how to program and “saw the Internet as a way to spread the faith.”

This month Becciu told the Vatican News that, when he was near death, Carlo had said: “I want to offer all my suffering for the Lord, for the pope and for the church. I don’t want to do purgatory; I want to go straight to heaven. “

The cardinal added: “He said that at 15! A little boy who talks like that surprises us, and I think he encourages everyone not to joke with our faith, but to take it seriously. “

To make it easier to pray at his grave, the Vatican ordered that Carlo’s body be exhumed last year and reburied in the Shrine of Renunciation in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi.

The Vatican will study other miracles attributed to the prayers to Carlo. If he certifies a second miracle after Carlo’s beatification in October, the young man can become a saint.

If that happens, Carlo would be a strong candidate to become the patron of the Internet, Becciu said, but
“The Pope decides”.

Declaring a patron saint for netizens (real surfers already have a wave protector, Saint Christopher) would be in line with the Vatican’s push to promote an online presence. The Pope’s digital outreach efforts include his popular Twitter accounts, which have more than 50 million followers, including 900,000 of his comments in Latin.

Catholic priests around the world turned to Zoom during coronavirus blockades to hold online services when churches closed.

Francis described the Internet as a “gift from God,” but he also warned that the hours he spends alone online “can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors, from those closest to us.” In 2016, he said nuns should be allowed to browse the Internet in their convents, but they shouldn’t allow online time to become “occasions of loss.”
time or escape the demands of fraternal life in community. “

If he declares Carlo as the patron saint of the Internet, Francis will likely play the boy as a figure who can lead users away from loneliness and turn their browsing into a life-affirming social experience.

In recent years, some reports have argued that the Catholic Church already has a patron saint of all things digital: Isidoro, the 6th-century Bishop of Seville who created a 20-volume encyclopedia in an attempt to put all knowledge into one place, a precursor to Google

Press reports have said that Pope John Paul II declared him the saint of the web.

But Becciu said he couldn’t find any official record that Isidoro has been assigned by the Vatican. “There is nothing like that in the archives,” he said.

Salzano said his late son was ready to take responsibility, although it would be very heavy.

“You will have to see all the ugly things on the internet. It will be a difficult job, but an excellent way to spread the faith, ”he said. “I hope he can pull the beautiful side out of the net and fight the dark side.”