Carlo Acutis, 'God's influencer,' to be first millennial Catholic saint

Lauren Costantino, Miami Herald on

Published in Religious News

In the Catholic faith, sainthood is reserved for those who have lived a life of heroic virtues, acted as a martyr or taken part in miracles. The designation typically comes after the person has been dead for decades, even hundreds of years.

That changed last week, when Pope Francis recognized the first saint of the millennial generation in the history of the Catholic Church.

His name is Carlo Acutis, famed for internet evangelizing that earned him the nickname “God’s influencer.” The crowning achievement of the 15-year-old Italian, who died of leukemia in 2006, was cataloging a database of miracles, which he used to spread the message of Catholic faith.

Acutis was born in London to Italian parents and later lived in Italy but his impact in the Catholic community is felt worldwide, including in Miami. In 2022, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious institute in the Archdiocese of Miami, organized a two-day conference that featured an exhibit of the “miracle” database created by the young website designer, who was a member of what is known as Generation Y, those born between 1981 and 1997, also known as millennials.

“It’s very timely because social media is so prominent and important at this time,” said Mother Adela Galindo, founder of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Galindo, who was a part of the team that organized the Miami event, called the IV International Eucharistic-Marian Congress, said it attracted 4,000 attendees, many of whom were fellow millennials.

“I always say, the hope is in the youth. People may tend to look at the youth like ‘The young people don’t have faith,’” she said. “But we have a lot of children, teenagers, young adults that are extremely committed with the Lord. A lot of young people are the ones that are evangelizing the older people.”

The multilingual exhibit featured Acutis’ research of what are known as Eucharistic miracles — defined by the church as extraordinary events involving the Eucharist, or what the church believes is the body and blood of Christ, and the ritual commemorating Jesus’ Last Supper. Acutis chronicled 164 such events from all over the world in his digital database.

“He found that social media could be the means that he can lead all the young people and many people actually, not only young people, actually the whole world ... to love the Eucharist,” Galindo said.

Acutis devoted his life to the church and had a fascination with the Eucharist from a very young age, famously referring to it as his “highway to heaven.”

The event in Miami included comments from Catholic leaders from around the world, including Miami’s own Archbishop Thomas Wenski, and a life-size, life-like statue of Acutis, where visitors could pray. Young people, at the request of the Archdiocese, attended the exhibit dressed in a polo shirt and jeans — an homage to his signature style.

“We wanted them to dress like Carlo,” said Galindo. “It was really powerful. It’s a revolution of love.”

Official designation in 2025

Pope Francis and a group of cardinals approved the canonization — the last step in the process of becoming a saint — of Acutis and 14 others last week at a meeting at the Vatican, according to Vatican News, paving the way for Acutis to be proclaimed a saint at some point in 2025, during the church’s jubilee year.

The years-long process of becoming a saint includes three stages: first a candidate becomes “Venerable,” then “Blessed” and then “Saint.” For Acutis, this process began in 2013 when the pope named him “a Servant of God.”


At least five years after someone has passed, the pope will decide if a candidate is “Venerable,” which is a formal recognition that they’ve lived a life of heroic virtues. Then, according to church law, the candidate will become “beatified” if they have interceded in at least two miracles.

Acutis was designated “venerable” in 2018 and was declared “beatified” or “blessed” by the church in 2020 during a live-streamed Mass in Assisi, Italy, according to Vatican News, making him the first “beatified” person to ever go viral. The Vatican says the first miracle attributed to Acutis was when he is said to have interceded from heaven in 2013 to save the life of a Brazilian child who was suffering from a rare pancreatic disease.

The second miracle attributed to Acutis came from a woman from Costa Rica who prayed at his tomb in Assisi after suffering severe head trauma. The woman, who doctors said had a low chance of survival, was said to have healed miraculously after praying for Acutis to intercede, according to Vatican News.

Acutis was a normal, popular boy with a good sense of humor, according to his mother, Antonia Salzano, who gave an interview during the Miami exhibit in 2022. Though his interests were that of a normal child — computing and gaming, playing the saxophone, enjoying soccer and time with his pets — he was also known for his acts of kindness and generosity. He dedicated time to volunteering at soup kitchens and helping the homeless. He used his personal savings to buy a sleeping bag for a homeless man on the way to mass. He often stood up for those who were being bullied.

Early religious interests

Salzano said her son had a way of sharing his faith with people without being overly pushy. She said she saw this in the way he spoke to his friends and classmates.

“He wanted to bring them to Jesus, but in a nice way. He knew many of the classmates were far away from the beliefs,” Salzano said in 2022.

Acutis died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 15, on Oct. 12, 2006 — just 10 days after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.

When he was just 11, Acutis began to investigate Eucharistic miracles, and made a database tracking the reports of such events. His website has been translated into numerous languages and the exhibit has traveled to over 10,000 parishes across all five continents.

Sister Ana M. Lanzas of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts in Miami said Acutis’ use of technology — something that is so often used to spread hate — can bring a positive message to young people.

“Carlo Acutis is a young man that can bring the question in their hearts,” she said. “That, yes, there is hope. If he did it, I can do it. If he was joyful in the midst of sickness, I can be joyful.”

“He’s a beautiful luminous sign that holiness is not only for older people, or for religious people, or for priests. No, holiness is also for the lay people,” said Galindo.


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