Italian six-year-old takes next step towards sainthood

.- An Italian girl who died of cancer at the age of six and a half could soon become one of the youngest saints canonized in recent years.

On Monday Pope Benedict XVI signed papers confirming the “heroic virtues” of Antonietta Meo, who was born in Rome in 1930.

According to Vatican Radio, Meo, nicknamed “Nennolinia,” was a cheerful girl who was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of five and as a result had to have a leg amputated.  She accepted her fate and, wearing a heavy prosthetic leg, continued to play with the other children at her kindergarten. 

She wrote many prayers in the form of letters which, according to Vatican experts, reveal a “truly extraordinary life of mystical union” with God.  In one of the letters she wrote: “Dear baby Jesus, you are holy, you are good. Help me, grant me your grace and give me back my leg. If you don't want to, then may your will be done.”

Meo died on July 3, 1937.

Church authorities are generally cautious about proclaiming young children saints.  But in 1981 the head of the Vatican Congregation for Saints said “'It is possible to speak of a human being being precocious in their sense of good and evil.”

Other young Italian saints canonized in recent decades include St. Domenico Savio, a former student of St. John Bosco who died before his 15th birthday, and St. Maria Goretti, who died in 1902 at the age of eleven after resisting a would-be rapist.  St. Maria Goretti forgave her attacker on her deathbed, and later appeared to him in a dream.

If canonized, Antonietta Meo would be the youngest canonized saint who did not die as a martyr.

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