Pope Calls Grieving Mother of Son Who Died at World Youth Day: ‘He Comforted Me as if He Were My Dad’
Italian Bishop Luca Raimondi said that ‘the Pope and Luca’s mother cried together.’
Pope Francis called the mother of a young man, Luca Re Sartù, 24, who passed away after apparently contracting a bacterial staph infection during his trip to Portugal for World Youth Day. The infection likely turned into septicemia, leading to organ failure, and the youth died on Aug. 11. The autopsy results are pending.
On Thursday, Aug. 17, the day before the funeral, Pope Francis called the young man’s mother. According to the auxiliary bishop of Milan, Bishop Giovanni Luca Raimondi, who celebrated the youth’s funeral with 13 other ipriests, “the Pope and Luca’s mother cried together.”
“What the mother said to me,” the bishop explained to Vatican Radio, “was, word for word, ‘When you see him [the Pope], thank him for me, because he was exquisitely kind. He grieved with me, he cried with me, and, above all, he was like a father. He consoled me as if he were my dad.’”
“This mother was very, very touched,” the bishop said, adding that he was also moved by the Pope’s gesture. “The Pope shared the tears of this woman. This has struck me. It is very beautiful.”
The bishop went on to speak about the solemnity of the funeral, explaining that “in the church Luca’s friends immediately sang the World Youth Day hymn. They prayed and accompanied him to the cemetery. The grief of the family is inexpressible in these days. Undoubtedly this sorrow is accompanied by the closeness of the whole community, the universal Church.”
Bishop Américo Aguiar, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon and the director of World Youth Day 2023, has offered his condolences to the family, assuring them that Portugal is mourning with them.
Bishop Raimondi focused the funeral homily on Pope Francis’ words at the closing Mass of World Youth Day on Aug.6, which was the feast of the Transfiguration.
The Pope developed that homily around three actions: to shine, to listen, to be unafraid.
Bishop Raimondi reflected that the young man who died chose to shine, in attending World Youth Day and in his active participation in local Church life. His “joy was to listen to the Lord and to his neighbor, whom he served in the San Luigi Oratory in Marnate.”
And, the bishop continued, “It is Luca himself, who, like Jesus, tells us today, ‘Do not be afraid. I am with Jesus. Continue to have faith.’”
The bishop said that amid the tragedy of the loss of a young life, at his funeral he “breathed a fiesta of light: a fiesta of light from young believers who prayed and who incorporated the whole community in prayer.”
Bishop Raimondi, 56, said that in the Jubilee Year 2025, at the youth events, “when we go to Rome, Luca will be, so to speak, our patron. He will accompany us from heaven.”
He said he invited the many young people present in the overflow crowd at the funeral to reflect on the young man’s life: “Why was this boy so beloved? What was the source of his joy? Faith isn’t a joke. It changes a person’s life. Luca was truly a missionary. Even with his death, he has given witness to his faith.”
According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the young man and some of his friends from the WYD group had stayed on in Portugal for a few days of relaxation at a campground in São Pedro de Moel, on the Atlantic. This is where he first fell ill and was treated for flu-like symptoms. His condition worsened after his return to Italy, and he passed away that Friday afternoon.