In the photos he does not have the usual look of the aging pious Catholic. With his candid and jovial air, could be the next door neighbor, handsome but not very handsome, dressed in sportswear and tracksuits, a young man from a bourgeois family from any European city of this century, a fan of the PlayStation and football. What else? He was the age of a millennial, a strong penchant for programming and technology in general and the faith of the very, very devout. That is the whole secret.
His name was Carlo Acutis. This Italian boy born in London, who died in 2006 at the age of 15 due to leukemia, is the last blessed proclaimed by the Catholic Church after the ceremony last Saturday. That is, the step prior to the declaration of sanctity. If this ends up happening, Carlo could even join another very select club, that of the 10,000 saints that the Catholic Church has named to date. A group in which only a hundred are children or young people – the blessed, about eighty -, according to data produced in 2017 by the National Catholic Register.
Irene Savio. Rome
Furthermore, Carlo could also be named ‘patron of the Internet’, as some has been quick to underline. Because there are already those who consider it that way. They have called him “the cyber-apostle of the Eucharist”, “the first influencer of God”, and “the saint of the Internet”. And this well, the Church emphasizes, Carlo had even created a web page in which cataloged the miracles in the world.
The heart of world Christianity is increasingly shifting towards the global world of the web, and it is not limited only to face-to-face ceremonies, which have long ceased to swell the ranks of the new faithful, particularly in the most important countries. developed. The case of Carlo is known after a decade in which the Vatican has made considerable efforts – especially if we think that it is a millenary institution in which decision-making is a very slow process. to get closer to the technological world that bewitches the new generations.
A ‘social’ Church
See the example of the Argentine Pope. Since 2012, Francisco communicates online through his Twitter accounts, one for each of the eight main languages (@pontifex y @pontifex_es are the ones with the largest number of followers, in English and Spanish), plus Latin, which is the official language of the Holy See. In addition, since 2016, Francisco also has an account on Instagram (@franciscus), which is used several times a week to disseminate the most striking images of the daily activities of the Argentine Pope.
Behind, of course, there is a communication team, since the tweets, as well as the short texts that are published on Instagram, are not written directly by the Pope. There is a group of experts that formulates these writings – which are basically fragments of the most striking papal interventions – and watches that do not contain any message that goes against Francis’ thinking. The result to date has not been bad at all.
The Pope’s nine Twitter accounts have been gaining followers over the years, and today they have an audience of more than 40 million people, of which 18.5 million are users of the account in Spanish. Much more than, for example, Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon, 1.4 million), Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron, 5.9 million), Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson, 3 million) and even the charismatic Justin Trudeau (@ JustinTrudeau, 5.1 million). Of the main international political leaders, only the president of the United States, Donald Trump, beats the Pope, since the two accounts of the American (@potus and @realDonaldTrump) publish texts that reach him to more than 118 million Internet users.
To all this is added the world of the Vatican media, which also today have accounts on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, among other social networks. In addition, last January, the Pope’s words appeared in the youthful Tik Tok, in an account that, despite not being directly linked to the Vatican, was celebrated by the newspaper ‘Avvenire’, a medium linked to the Italian Episcopal Conference.
Javier Brandoli. Roma
One of the most recent architects of this has been Alessandro Gisotti, a good-natured Italian who, before serving for eight months as the Vatican’s ‘ad interim’ spokesperson (after the abrupt departure of Greg Burke and the Spanish Paloma García Ovejero), held the position of coordinator of the social networks of the Dicastery (ministry, in Vatican slang) of the Communication of the Holy See. A position currently held by another Italian, Davide Dionisi.
In the beginning, Spanish was also involved Gustavo Entrala, a communication specialist born in Granada (1970), who a decade ago came into contact with today’s Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI. In 2009, “since 101 [su empresa] We wrote to them saying that we were specialists in digitalization of brands and we offered to give a communication course to the professionals of the curia. After three months he called us [el entonces portavoz vaticano, Federico] Lombardi and asked us to go to Rome “, he explained in an interview with the Argentine newspaper ‘La Nación’.
To become a ‘saint’, the young Acutis still has a way to go, so it is difficult to predict when it might happen. In particular, he needs the Church to acknowledge another miracle. The one that allowed him to be elevated to blessed occurred in Campo Grande (Brazil) where the Church maintains that a 6-year-old boy was inexplicably cured of an anomaly that he suffered in the pancreas. Now he would need to repeat the gesture again.
The Church has understood the potential of Carlo and his ability to connect with people precisely because of his contemporaneity. “Carlo embodies the sanctity of digital natives,” wrote Domenico Sorrentino, the bishop of Assisi (central Italy), in the book entitled ‘Originals, not photocopies’, inspired by a phrase that the young man used to repeat.
Francis himself came to speak of Acutis in an apostolic exhortation (an official document in which the Pope gives indications on a certain argument), the ‘Christus vivit’ (Christ Lives), published last March. Carlo “knew very well that those mechanisms of communication, advertising and social networks can be used to make us sleepy, dependent on consumption and the novelties we can buy, obsessed with free time, locked in negativity. But he was able to use the new communication techniques to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty“argued the Pope there.
A few words that apparently went far. So much so that today, in addition to a page in the Wikipedia virtual encyclopedia and an association in its name, it also there are more than 200 sites and blogs in different languages dedicated to him. His Facebook page has amassed 10,000 more followers in one week. His tomb in Assisi, the city of another saint, Saint Francis, has recently been opened and his body was exposed to the public a few days ago. Finally, it was also decided to extend the exhibition due to the large influx, as explained by those responsible for the place where it is located. Certainly a success.