Body of venerable teen exhumed, too early to declare incorrupt

Acutis07065 Carlo Acutis. |

The body of Venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager and computer programmer, was exhumed this week according to Canon Law, as a part of the process of investigation for canonization.

"On Wednesday, 23 January, the mortal remains of the Venerable Carlo Acutis, were exhumed in accord with Canon Law and transferred to a suitable location in preparation for their translation to the Shrine of the Renunciation in Assisi, scheduled for 5-6 April," Nicola Gori, the postulator of Acutis' cause of beatification and canonization, announced online.

Gori also cautioned against pre-emptive reports that declared that Acutis had been found to be incorrupt.

"Any judgement on the state of the body's preservation is premature as the necessary examinations by medical personnel are currently underway," he said.

The cautionary announcement came after Father Marcelo Tenorio, a priest of São Paulo, Brazil, who said he was a vice postulator for the cause, announced on his Facebook page that the body of Acutis had been found to be incorrupt.

While the original post was taken down, Tenorio posted a second post for clarification on Thursday. "The body was in a good state of repair," he said.

He said that he had made the announcement that the body was "intact, but without any authority, of course, because who will say if it is a miracle or not will be the experts."

In his post, he also explained that he had been named a vice postulator of the cause by the Vatican, while a tribunal court examines a possible miracle for the cause that took place in his diocese in Brazil. This is a position that will be short-lived, he noted, and will end after the tribunal closes the case.

"In giving the news of the exhumation and the condition of the body, I did it in my own name, without any canonical or scientific authority" except for "devotional authority," he said in his post. He added that there is strong devotion to the teen in Brazil.

Acutis was born in London May 3, 1991, to Italian parents who soon returned to Milan, and is remembered for his great love for God at a young age. As a child, he attended daily Mass, frequently prayed the rosary and made weekly confessions.

He was also gifted with computers, and developed a website cataloguing Eucharistic miracles, which he had a passion for researching. This website was the genesis of The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, an international exhibition which highlights such occurrences.

Acutis died of leukemia in Monza, near Milan, Oct. 12, 2006. His heroic virtues were recognized by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in July 2018, which advanced his cause for canonization and added the title "Venerable" to his name.

The next step in the process would be for Acutis to be beatified and named "Blessed", which comes before he could be canonized and pronounced an official saint of the Catholic Church. Because he is not a martyr, this requires that a miracle through his intercession to be approved by the Vatican. A second miracle would then be needed for his canonization.

Exhumation of the body is a normal part of the canonization process, and often takes place before a beatification. The Church requires that postulators of causes seek permission of civil authorities and of any living family that might have rights to remains before exhuming them.

Archbishop Paul Coakley, who oversaw the exhumation of Blessed Stanley Rother's body in 2017, told CNA at the time that the Vatican also requires a team of witnesses and medical experts be present for the exhumation, which is done in order to assess the condition of a body, and to gather possible relics that will be venerated once a person has been beatified.

"They had expertise that would be helpful in describing what would be found when his tomb was opened, because we didn't know what we could find," Archbishop Coakley said at the time. A report on the exhumed body was then prepared and sent to the Vatican.

Both the exhumation and examination are done "with great dignity and reverence, and there is a process by which we exhumed his body from the family plot at the parish cemetery in Okarche," the archbishop added.

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Incorruption, even partially so, is thought to be a sign of holiness, but the Church also recognizes that there may be natural causes of partial or whole bodily preservation that are not yet understood.

As a result, incorruptibility is not enough, on its own, to have the person in question declared a saint by the Pope, according to relic researcher Heather Pringle.

Moreover, the Vatican looks for virtue of person's life and works before officially declaring them a saint.

According to the publishers of a biography on Acutis, he "was a teen of our times, like many others. He tried hard in school, with his friends, [and] he loved computers. At the same time he was a great friend of Jesus Christ, he was a daily communicant and he trusted in the Virgin Mary. Succumbing to leukemia at the age of 15, he offered his life for the Pope and for the Church. Those who have read about his life are moved to profound admiration."

One of the quotes Acutis is best remembered for is: "To always be close to Jesus, that's my life plan. I'm happy to die because I've lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn't have pleased God."

He also said that "our aim has to be the infinite and not the finite. The Infinite is our homeland. We have always been expected in Heaven," and he called the Eucharist "my highway to heaven."

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