A Manila diocese has formally opened the cause for the beatification and canonization of a Filipino boy who was earlier named by the Vatican as a "Servant of God."
Cubao Diocese started the first session for the promotion for the cause of Darwin Ramos in formal rites on Aug. 28.
Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao announced that an investigative body has already been established to verify whether Ramos has indeed "heroically practiced Christian virtues" to be declared a saint.
Born on Dec. 17, 1994, Ramos died in September 2012 at the age of 17 after a long illness.
In March, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome gave Cubao Diocese the green light to look into the life of Ramos.
Bishop Ongtioco admitted that the process for sainthood is going to be tedious.
Father Danilo Flores, promoter of the cause for beatification, said the investigative body formed by the bishop would try to prove that Ramos "has the reputation for goodness and to be declared as such."
Father Flores said Darwin is famous because he has a certain holiness not common to the youth of the Philippines or the world.
"He has something that we would have to discover and that will take place in stages," said the priest. "More important, if he is in heaven, we have to prove if he can be a model, especially for the youth."
Dominican priest Thomas de Gabory, postulator for the cause of the beatification of Ramos, said he met Ramos before the boy died in 2012.
"[Ramos] was like you and I, a simple teenager," said the Dominican. "In appearance he was like you and I, but in the heart he was deeply donated with Jesus Christ."
Ramos was born in the slums of Pasay City
on the outskirts of Philippine capital Manila. At the age of 12, he volunteered to help street children through the foundation Tulay ng Kabataan (Bridge of Children).
All the while, he was battling Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease characterized by muscle weakness.
After he discovered his faith, he received the sacrament of baptism and his first communion and the sacrament of confirmation in 2007.
Even as his physical condition deteriorated, Ramos became an inspiration to the staff and children at the foundation.
Bishop Ongtioco said the boy developed a "deep personal relationship with Christ," taking time every day to pray and entrust himself to God.
In 2012, Ramos’ condition worsened, but even in hospital he maintained his friendly attitude and thanked everyone for helping him.
Father Gabory said he believes Ramos is "already in heaven ... but I have to prove it at the church tribunal."
"We have to prove the holiness of [Ramos], of his Christian values, his hope, his spirituality and faith. To prove he is already in heaven, we have to investigate [his] life. It is my job. I am the advocate of [Ramos] but we have to find the truth," he added.
Ramos' mother Erlinda expressed gratitude for the life of her son.
"When he was alive he didn't hurt anyone, and although his life was short, he did something good," she said. "He gave love when he was here. He showed what kind of child he was. He never harbored any ill will, he was a good son."
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