Five years after Ignacio Echeverría used his skateboard to take on the London Bridge attackers, the Catholic church in Madrid has joined forces with his family in an effort to have the Spanish “skateboard hero” recognised as a saint.
Echeverría, a Spanish national living in London, was among the eight people killed in 2017 when three terrorists rammed into pedestrians in a hired van before attacking passersby in the Borough Market area with 12in knives.
In the days after the attack, the 39-year-old was hailed as a hero after it emerged that he had been fatally stabbed while using his skateboard to fend off the attackers and protect others.
His bravery has since been saluted across Spain, with skate parks and plazas named after him and his final 24 hours captured in a musical titled Skate Hero.
One year after his passing, the auxiliary bishop of Madrid, Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, suggested a tribute that aimed to go one step further: a campaign to have him canonised by the Catholic church.
His father, Joaquin Echeverría, loved the idea. “I thought that Ignacio – as someone who was always very excited about life – would be jumping for joy in heaven,” he said. “Because it was an acknowledgment that his death was an act of generosity.”
The process, which could not be considered by the Church until five years after his son had died, began on 3 June.
“The Vatican does not allow a process to begin until the fifth year after the death of the person. So the time has come to be able to start working,” Echeverría said.
The family has since started gathering documents to present to the church for the case to be considered. “In general, these processes take a long time,” said Echeverría. “I don’t know if it will take five years or 15 years.”
The arduous process could be eased by a 2017 announcement by Pope Francis that Christians who had “voluntarily and freely offered their life for others and persevered with this determination unto death” would be worthy of “special consideration and honour”.
The pronouncement came just one month after the attack, said his father. “When I read it, I thought it had been tailor-made for Ignacio. But it turned out that a commission had been working on it for seven months.”
He said his son had long leaned on his Catholic faith to guide him as he made the move from Madrid to London and began carving out a new life as a financial crimes analyst for HSBC. “His religious life was very important to him,” he added. “He relied on religion to overcome his difficulties and failures.”
Along with the skate parks that have sprouted up to pay tribute to Echeverría’s courage and his lifelong love of skateboarding, he was also posthumously awarded the George Medal by the Queen and Spain’s Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.
“He’s had so many tributes, more than what was necessary. But I think the tributes serve a broader purpose,” said his father. “When a kid goes to a skate park and sees Ignacio’s name, they feel a connection to him and to something that was good.”