By Elena Dini
ROME — Pope Francis recognized the “heroic virtues” of four laypeople July 5, thus advancing their sainthood causes.
Italian politician Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977) was born in Pozzallo, Sicily. Having witnessed two World Wars and the Cold War, he dedicated his life to unity and peacemaking. His political engagement was shaped by his spiritual life as a Third Order Dominican. As the mayor of Florence for two mandates (1951-1957 and 1960-1964), he supported workers rights and tried to improve the lives of the poor.
La Pira was a big actor in both ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. In 1958, he started in Florence the “Mediterrenean Conversations,” which were informal gatherings that allowed important personalities from diverse religious communities and of different political philosophies to get to know each other and advance peaceful coexistence. Among the important friendships he developed was with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, who later held a historic meeting with Pope Paul VI.
Italian teenager Carlo Acutis (1991-2006) was known as a “computer geek.” His deep love for the Eucharist, which he defined as “my highway to heaven,” inspired him to go to Mass daily and create a website that documented Eucharistic miracles around the world. He was very clear in his desires. “To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan,” he said. He died of leukemia at the age of 15.
Alessia González-Barros y González (1971-1985) was born in Spain. When she was 13, a tumour left her paralyzed. She underwent many surgeries and lived her suffering with exemplary courage, offering it for the pope and for the church, never losing her smile. She used to often pray by these words: “Jesus, I want to feel better, I want to be healed; but if you do not want that, I want what you want.” She died only a few months after her surgeries.
Pietro Di Vitale (1916-1940) was born in Palermo, Sicily. He manifested very early his desire to serve God as a priest. He entered the minor seminary in 1930, and he committed himself to study and prayer.
“God gave me an open intelligence and a strong will – he said – and one day I will be accountable to God for these gifts; therefore I have to make the most of it to become a saint and a scholar for His glory,” he was quoted as saying.
In 1934, the first symptoms emerged of a stomach illness that would lead to his death prior to ordination. Di Vitale lived his suffering in faith, supported by his devotion to the Mother of God and to the Eucharist.
The recognition of these four people’s heroic virtues means that the faithful may venerate them and take inspiration from their example in following God and conforming their life to the Gospel.