On the way to sainthood: an Italian teenager who lived the Focolare spirituality. On 10 December the diocesan phase of the process of Pietrino Di Natale’s Beatification was launched at a solemn ceremony in Teramo Cathedral.

In a year in which the Catholic Church has dedicated great attention to the youth, it seems fitting that Pietrino’s name was proclaimed as a model for all, in a packed Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, in the heart of ancient Teramo, in the Abuzzo region of Italy, on what would have been his birthday. In 1984, Pietrino De Natale was a 17 year-old high school student when he drowned in the waters off Silvi, a coastal town near his home. Every year since then on 20th August an increasingly large crowd gathers at the small cemetery of Colledara to pass on testimonies, remembering his example of being a “cornerstone”, a fulfilled Christian, someone whose life “has to do with holiness”.

Pietrino – “little Pietro” – was named after his father who died in a work accident before Pietrino was born. He grew up in the small village of Ornano Piccolo, which offered a protective environment for the young widow, Adelina and her son. At 11 years old, Pietrino got to know the Focolare spirituality through two young parish priests, don Gianfranco De Luca, now Bishop of Termoli-Larino, and don Giovanni D’Annunzio, currently responsible for the Focolare’s Diocesan Movement. It was a crucial meeting for young Pietrino. He drew from it the gift of a luminous certainty in the love of God, which propelled him to seek Jesus in every day life. Don Giovanni recently wrote: «Pietrino’s heart was only for God.

An important step ahead was his participation in the Focolare congress for young people in 1978. (…) When he came back from there, I noticed how launched he was in living every moment profoundly. His race towards holiness had begun».

In the months ahead, testimonies of those who knew him will be collected. In the meantime, there is a short biography in Italian (Teresa D’Orsogna, Pietrino Di Natale. … sono scattato ad amare…, ed. Palumbi, 2018) for those who would like to get to know more about this young man who continues to inspire many young – and not so young – people to follow Jesus along the pathway to unity.

Chiara Favotti

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