Catholic News Service
Thousands of pilgrims have flocked to the tomb of Blessed Carlo Acutis, the 15-year-old Italian teenager whose use of technology to spread devotion to the Eucharist prompted Pope Francis to hail him as a role model for young people today.
In a statement released, the Diocese of Assisi said that since his beatification one year ago, an estimated 117,000 pilgrims visited the teen’s tomb in the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi. Hundreds of pilgrimage groups have registered to receive a catechesis on the beatified teen’s life on Blessed Acutis feast day Oct. 12.
“Every day, I meet families, young people, groups of visitors from every part of Italy, and after the reopening (of the country), from different parts of the world,” said Capuchin Father Carlos Acácio Gonçalves Ferreira, rector of the Shrine of the Renunciation.
“Carlo is a phenomenon of holiness that touches everyone, that pushes young people to approach the church, who helps those who are far from the faith,” Father Ferreira said.
Before his death from leukemia in 2006, Acutis was an average teen with an above-average knack for computers. He put that knowledge to use by creating an online database of eucharistic miracles around the world.
In Christus Vivit (“Christ Lives”), Pope Francis’ exhortation on young people, he said the teen was a role model for young people today who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.”
“Carlo was well-aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity,” the pope wrote.
In February 2020, the pope formally recognized a miracle attributed to Acutis’ intercession and in October that year, the teen was beatified during a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis.
According to the Diocese of Assisi, an estimated 48,200 pilgrims visited Blessed Acutis’ tomb in August, the height of the tourist season; visitors came from Italy, France, Slovenia, Germany, Spain and Malta as well as Brazil and the Philippines.
In preparation for his feast day, a prayer vigil was held Oct. 11 at the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi, followed by a morning Mass presided by Capuchin Father Marco Gaballo, vicar of the Capuchins’ Central Italy province.
For the feast day, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi was scheduled to celebrate Mass at the cathedral.
All events can be viewed on the diocese’s Facebook page and website, www.diocesiassisi.it.
So who was Carlo Acutis? Here’s what you need to know courtesy of Catholic News Agency:
- Carlo Acutis was born May 3, 1991, in London, where his parents were working. Just a few months later, his parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, moved to Milan.
- As a teenager, Carlo was diagnosed with leukemia. He offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church, saying “”I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the Pope, and the Church.”
- He died on Oct. 12, 2006, and was buried in Assisi, at his request, because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. His cause for canonization began in 2013. He was designated “Venerable” in 2018, and was designated “Blessed” October 10, 2020.
- From a young age, Carlo seemed to have a special love for God, even though his parents weren’t especially devout. His mom said that before Carlo, she went to Mass only for her First Communion, her confirmation, and her wedding. But as a young child, Carlo loved to pray the rosary. After he made his First Communion, he went to Mass as often as he could, and he made Holy Hours before or after Mass. He went to confession weekly. He asked his parents to take him on pilgrimages — to the places of the saints, and to the sites of Eucharistic miracles.
- His witness of faith led to a deep conversion in his mom, because, according to the priest promoting his cause for sainthood, he “managed to drag his relatives, his parents to Mass every day. It was not the other way around; it was not his parents bringing the little boy to Mass, but it was he who managed to get himself to Mass and to convince others to receive Communion daily.”
- He was known for defending kids at school who got picked on, especially disabled kids. When a friend’s parents were getting a divorce, Carlo made a special effort to include his friend in the Acutis family life.
- He was also a programmer, and built a website cataloguing and promoting Eucharistic miracles. On the site, he told people that “the more often we receive the Eucharist, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven.”
- Carlo loved playing video games. His console of choice was a Playstation, or possibly a PS2, which was released in 2000, when Carlo was nine. We know he only allowed himself to play games for an hour a week, as a penance and a spiritual discipline, but he wanted to play much more.
- Initially, there were reports that the body of Carlo Acutis was found to be incorrupt. A spokeswoman for Acutis’ beatification told CNA that the entire body was present when it was exhumed, but “not incorrupt.” He, however, lied in repose in a glass tomb where he was venerated by pilgrims until Oct. 17, 2020. He was displayed in jeans and a pair of Nikes, the casual clothes he preferred in life.
- His heart, which can now be considered a relic, is displayed in a reliquary in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. His mother said that his family had wanted to donate his organs when he died, but were unable to do so because of the leukemia.