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The prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints said Friday that Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is likely to be canonized during the Church’s Jubilee Year 2025. 

Pier Giorgio Frassati. public domain.

Among Frassati fans, the news has been the cause for a lot of excitement — and talk of plans to travel to Rome for the canonization. But some Catholics, of course, are less familiar with Frassati. 

So who was he? What made him a saint? When will he be canonized? And what is this Jubilee Year thing again?

The Pillar explains.

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Who was Pier Giorgio Frassati?

Frassati, born on Holy Saturday 1901, was the son of a newspaper publisher and Italian politician — his dad — and a well-known painter — his mom.   

As a child, he was unusually religious — he was a daily communicant at a time when that was rare, he loved the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he loved the poor. From a young age, he found himself giving away shoes, clothing, and pocket money to poor people in Turn, where he lived. 

Frassati was also known as something of a prankster in his teenage years, and was not always an especially good student. But in 1919, while he was studying to become a mining engineer, he joined student groups focused on promoting Catholic social teaching in Italian civil society — and soon he was leading Catholic-backed opposition to the rise of Italian fascism, even once being beaten by police. 

As a young man, he organized Catholic students, continued giving his money to the poor — often in secret — loved Dante and opera, and was an enthusiastic mountain climber and outdoorsman.

When he was 21, Frassati became a third order Dominican.

Three years later, in June 1925, Frassati began to notice sharp pains while on a boating trip with friends. A few days later he was completely paralyzed by pain. A doctor diagnosed him with polio, and it became clear he would die. 

At the age of 24, on July 4, 1925, he spoke his last words: “May I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.”

When his funeral was held, his family was shocked to discover that thousands of people from across the city came to grieve their friend — most of whom had been helped or encouraged in faith by Frassati.

A cause for his canonization began in the early 1930s, because of the sheer number of people in Turin who were convinced he was a saint. The cause struggled in the 1940s, when some claimed that his frequent trips to the mountains were for the purposes of carousing. When it became clear that wasn’t true, the cause continued, and he was beatified in May 1990.


I often see ‘Verso l’alto’ written on images of Frassati. What is that?

In June 1925, just a few weeks before he died, Frassati scrawled a short note to a friend on a photograph of himself on a mountain climb — a climb which turned out to be his last. 

The note was simple: “Verso l’alto” — “To the top!”

After his death, the note became something of a motto to Frassati’s friends, reminding them to persevere in the spiritual life.

Since then, the message — “to the top!” — has been associated with Pier Giorgio, and those who revere his spirituality.

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Pier? Is that a name?

Yep, it’s an Italian name, and a form of Peter.

But if you’re the kind of U.S. Catholic who has a son named after Pier Giorgio, you already know that some people are a bit confused by it, or have trouble pronouncing it.

To clarify, Pier is not pronounced:

Pierre  — The French form of Peter. You can tell they’re different names, because “Pierre” has an extra r and e at the end.
Père — This is the French word used for “Father,” in the sense of a priest. But you’d be surprised how often people confuse it with “Pier.”
Pietro — That’s a different Italian form of Peter. It’s got a t and an o.
Pyrie — Yes, there are people who pronounce “Pier” like this, with a long e sound at the end, like it rhymes with Kyrie [Irving]. That’s the wrong pronunciation. 
Pyre — It’s also not pronounced like “funeral pyre,” which rhymes with “fire” or “wire.”
Piers — like former CNN correspondent Piers Morgan. His name has an s in it, you see.
Pierce — This one actually derives from Piers, and from the same root as “Pier,” but it wasn’t Frassati’s name.

This man is not named Pier.

If you want to pronounce Pier correctly, just remember that Pier Giorgio Frassati treated everyone like a “peer” — and pronounce his name just like that.

If that doesn’t work, just remember that it’d be great to have a beer with Pier — and that those words rhyme.

So when will he be canonized?

The Vatican hasn’t said — or even formally confirmed that Frassati will be declared a saint next year. 

But from The Pillar’s view, and to some observers, it seems most likely that Frassati will be canonized during the Jubilee Year’s Jubilee of Youth event — a kind of mini World Youth Day — set to take place from July 28 to Aug. 3, 2025, in Rome.

Frassati has long been regarded as a patron for youth — and Vatican officials already planned to bring Frassati’s relics from Turin to Rome for the event, along with those of Blessed Carlo Acutis. 

So during that week, Rome will be filled with young people from around the world, and Frassati’s relics will be present at the Vatican.

If he’s to be canonized in 2025, the Jubilee of Youth seems the most likely occasion.

What is the Jubilee Year anyway?

A Jubilee Year is a special celebration the Church holds at least once every 25 years. It’s a year of pilgrimages, of a focus on the spiritual life, of confession and special Masses, and of a general turn towards God in thanksgiving, and in repentance.

If you want to learn a lot more about Jubilee Years, and a little bit about cherries jubilee, well, this is the place for you.

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