VATICAN CITY — The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has recognized the heroic virtues of a 14-year-old Italian boy who died in 1963.
The pope advanced the cause of Angiolino Bonetta, along with four others, following a July 10 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Bonetta was born on Sept. 18, 1948, in Cigole, northern Italy. A lively but virtuous boy, he excelled at school as well as at sports.
When a pain developed in his knee, he attributed it to his athletic activities. But when he began to lose weight, his mother took him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with bone cancer, at the age of 12. He underwent chemotherapy and his leg was amputated.
According to an account of his life in “Saints for the Sick,” a 2010 book by Joan Carroll Cruz, Bonetta remained cheerful and his acceptance of his illness inspired conversions. When a nun suggested that he should offer up his sufferings, he replied: “I have already offered all to Jesus for the conversion of sinners. I am not afraid; Jesus always comes to help me.”
To a woman who expressed sympathy on seeing him walking painfully on crutches, he said: “But don’t you know that at every step I could save a soul?”
When the cancer metastasized, increasing his agony, he turned for comfort to the Virgin Mary and received the Eucharist daily. He held tight to a crucifix and other holy objects, including a relic of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. He spent his nights praying the rosary for other patients who were sick in mind and body.
A photo from this time depicts him lying in bed, with his parents beside him. His hand is extended affectionately to caress his mother’s cheek.
“Saints for the Sick” reports that the day before his death, on Jan. 28, 1963, he told his mother: “I have made a pact with the Madonna. When the hour arrives, she will come to take me. I have asked her to permit me to make my purgatory on this earth, not in the other world. When I die, I will immediately fly to heaven.”
At the moment of his death, in the early hours, he was holding his crucifix and St. Bernadette relic, with his head turned towards a statue of Mary.
Bonetta’s sainthood cause opened May 19, 1998. The diocesan phase of the process ended May 6, 2000. Following the decree announced July 11 Bonetta’s title will change from “Servant of God” to “the Venerable.”
Pope Francis also authorized decrees concerning four other causes during his meeting with Becciu Friday.
He recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Mariantonia Samà (1875-1953), a southern Italian laywoman who died following a life of great hardship, including 60 years of confinement to her bed. The move paves the way for her beatification.
He acknowledged the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), an Italian Jesuit explorer and cartographer who died in Mexico after extensive travels, including to present-day California and Arizona. He established 24 missions and visiting stations, and opposed the forced labor in silver mines imposed on Indigenous peoples by the Spanish.
The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Mariano José de Ibargüengoitia y Zuloaga (1815-1888), a Spanish priest who co-founded the Institute of the Servants of Jesus, and the Servant of God Maria Félix Torres (1907-2001), founder of the Company of the Savior.