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Pope Francis authorized decrees recognizing the “heroic virtues” of now Servant of God Nelson Santana, a nine year old cancer patient now on the path to sainthood.

Nelson Santana was born July 31st, 1955 in southern Brazil as the third born in a family of eight brothers. In 1964, he was admitted to a pediatric hospital for severe arm pain and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer.

During his stay, Santana won the hearts of the doctors and nurses that cared for him, getting along well with the other children. At the hospital, Father Genarina Gecchele of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus introduced the boy to Catholicism and gave him a proper catechesis.

Nelson was eager to be accepted into the Faith, and made his First Communion in the hospital chapel on July 15th, 1964. As his condition worsened and the pain grew, Nelson had great understanding of the meaning of Christ’s suffering. During his stay, he made his mother “promise on Jesus not to complain of pain and to console others.”

When his arm required amputation, Nelson only said that “pain is very important to increase true love and courageously maintain love already conquered.”

Nelson died on December 24, 1964, succumbing to osteosarcoma. His hagiography written by Diocese of São Carlos said each day he desired to partake in Communion, and served as an example to the other children at the hospital with him.

You can read the official Vatican document on the decrees here.

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