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KEYS: Who was Archbishop Oscar Romero?


Pope Francis canonizes the Archbishop of San Salvador Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero on Sunday, October 14. It will be one of the most important ceremonies of his pontificate.

INÉS SAN MARTÍN
Crux Now
“This is definitely a big moment for the Catholic Church as a whole. This is pope Francis trying to say that the Catholic church in Latin America has a lot to say, a lot to add to the Church as a whole. “We're talking about a very important figure for the people in Salvador but not only them. The entire of Central America has been touched by the light and the faith of Archbishop Romero.”

WHO WAS MONSIGNOR ROMERO?

Oscar Romero was born in 1917 and became a priest at 24. He was named archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, when the country was going through a tough civil conflict.

It was a terrible moment. The government of El Salvador launched a fierce repression against the left to kill the guerrillas. Trade unionists, politicians and even priests and nuns were killed.

The archbishop of San Salvador denounced the violence on both sides and asked them to abandon their weapons. For example, in this homily the day before his death.

“I would like to make a special call to all men in the military. Brothers, you are killing your own brothers, though we are all from the same country. If you are ordered to kill a man, God's law must prevail, and God's law says 'Do not kill.'”

HOW WAS HE MURDERED?

The murder shocked the world. It was March 24, 1980, during the Cold War.

The death squad decided to shoot him when he couldn't defend himself, during the celebration of mass in a hospital chapel.

“He went to the altar to start the consecration. In that moment, you couldn't even hear the noise of the vehicle, you only saw it come in. Some witnesses say that the murderer came out and shot him from one side of the church.”

He was shot in cold blood and was only 62 years old.

WHAT WAS HIS MESSAGE?

With gestures and words, Romero denounced the injustices of the totalitarian regime of El Salvador. That is why many call him “the Bishop of the Poor.”

MSGR. VINCENZO PAGLIA
Postulator of Monsignor Romero
“He was all about supporting the poor, but given the reality of El Salvador at that time, being with the poor meant being with the country.”

JOHN ALLEN
Crux Now
“Archbishop Óscar Romero since his death in 1980 has been a hero of the Church of the poor. I think every catholic around the world who dreams of a Church that is vitally engaged in defending the underdog, defending the oppressed, you know standing with those who where getting their teeth kicked in, they looked to Oscar Romero”.

He was a priest of deep and simple faith. The Church recognizes him as a “martyr killed in hatred of the faith,” because he didn't surrender his faith. This as a consequence lead him to his death.

WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG TO CANONIZE HIM?

After his murder, some Marxists took his image and turned it into a symbol. This led some people of the Vatican Curia to stop the cause of beatification for around 15 years.

MSGR. VINCENZO PAGLIA
Postulator of Monsignor Romero
“The accusation that he was a communists came at a time of strong polarization. It was the most common accusation of someone who was close to the weakest and poorest.”

However, despite being discouraged, John Paul II went to pray before his grave on the two occasions he traveled to El Salvador; and included him in the list of “Witnesses to the Faith in the Twentieth Century.” 

Benedict XVI also said he considered him a saint, in one of his conversations with journalists on a plane. 

Interestingly, the Anglican Church has already included Monsignor Romero in its list of saints. His statue is in Westminster Abbey as one of the ten martyrs of the twentieth century, along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King.