28 May, 2024 @ 16:49
2 mins read

How a Spaniard raised in the UK could become the first British saint of the 21st century following his tragic death from cancer

A SPANIARD raised in the UK could become the first British saint of the 21st century after succumbing to cancer in 2018. 

In 2014, Pedro Ballester Arenas was diagnosed with bone cancer in his pelvis after back pains became ‘unbearable’. 

Born to a Sevillan mother and Mallorcan father, Pedrito, as he was known to his loved ones, was the oldest of three children. 

He had just begun his chemical engineering degree at Imperial College London and was planning to enroll in the Spanish navy when he was diagnosed. 

READ MORE: Father of slain hero who fought London Bridge terrorists with a skateboard opens heart about sainthood application

Photo: Opus Dei

The 21-year-old, raised between Harrogate and Manchester, moved back up north for treatment.

He enrolled in the University of Manchester, living at the Opus Dei catholic residence, Greygarth Hall. 

Pedro was clever, sporty and loved by all his friends. 

Growing up in an extremely catholic family as part of the Opus Dei prelature, it was no surprise to his parents when he decided to become celibate and devote himself to his religion. 

“He had fallen in love with Christ,” said his brother, Carlos. 

The young man remained in high spirits despite his condition.
Photo: Pedro Ballester/Instagram

“You have shown me that Jesus shares his burden with others. I gave my life when I said ‘yes’ to my vocation,” he told his parents. 

Throughout his illness, Pedro became an inspiration to many, sharing his journey on social media. 

Between 2015-2016, Pedro went to Germany to receive innovative proton therapy treatment. 

At first, his tumor appeared to have disappeared, but unfortunately the cancer soon returned. 

In November 2015, he asked a friend to give a letter to Pope Francis and was invited to meet him. 

READ MORE: Sainthood bid for Spanish skateboard hero of London Bridge terror attack

Pedro met Pope Francis in 2015.
Photo: Pedro Ballester/Instagram

After fighting the illness for three more years, Pedro died on January 13, 2018, surrounded by family and friends. 

Some 500 people and over 40 priests came to his funeral and over the coming years, many would recommend his candidacy for sainthood. 

After his death, the University of Manchester granted him their first ever posthumous Master’s degree. 

Later, in 2023, Manchester diocese made the request for his sainthood.

Now, he could become one of the youngest saints ever and the first British saints of the 21st century. 

In 2022, a documentary was released about Pedro’s life called, ‘I’ve never been happier’, it can be viewed here. 

It comes as Italian teenager, Carlo Acutis, is also being considered for sainthood. 

The 15-year-old boy died in 2006 after suffering from leukemia. 

Known as the ‘first millennial saint’ Carlo shared miracles on the internet, did charity work and supported a number of catholic websites. 

He was beatified-the last stage before sainthood- in a ceremony in Assisi, Italy. 

Carlo was credited with the ‘miracle’ of curing a Brazilian boy with a rare pancreatic disease. 

To become a saint, the Vatican needs to verify a second miracle in Carlo’s name. 

Carlo has been referred to as the ‘first millenial saint.’
Photo: Carlo Acutis Beato

However, Pope Francis has previously waived this requirement. 

He was born in London in May 1991 to Italian parents but he grew up in Milan. 

“Carlo used the internet in service of the Gospel, to reach as many people as possible,” Cardinal Agostino Vallini said of Carlo.

READ MORE: Spanish priest is removed from his Costa Blanca parish for calling Pope Francis a ‘heretic’

Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email [email protected]

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