Another major step was taken on the path for sainthood for the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero when the day of his beatification was confirmed on Wednesday.
“Monsignor Romero will be proclaimed blessed in San Salvador on May 23,” affirmed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia at a press conference where he appeared alongside President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
The Episcopal Conference of El Salvador announced in February that the beatification ceremony would be held at the Divino Salvador del Mundo Square in the capital city of San Salvador.
Paglia praised Romero and acknowledged his sacrifice for the people of El Salvador before he was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
“Romero from heaven has become the good and blessed shepherd, who today unites all the people of El Salvador, the people for whom he gave his own life," said the main promoter in the campaign for Romero’s sainthood. "From heaven he wants all of El Salvador to walk on the path of justice and peace,” Paglia added.
As the Archbishop of San Salvador, Romero spoke out against the brutal repression carried out by the military in the early stages of El Salvador’s brutal civil war. Despite the constant threat against his own life, he was unafraid to use the pulpit to denounce human rights abuses and tirelessly advocate for the poor. His time as Archbishop was only three years yet his humanitarianism led his followers to consider him as “St. Romero of the Americas.”
The beatification process began in 1994 but was frozen for many years due to debate over whether or not Romero could be considered as a religious martyr. (Paglia admitted that the Vatican would receive “kilos of letters” accusing Romero of having been political and a follower of liberation theology). Yet Argentine-born Pope Francis unfroze that process in April 2013 and five weeks ago he decreed that Romero died as a martyr killed “in hatred of the faith.”
Sanchez Ceren praised the beatification as a “miracle” for a Salvadoran state still trying to overcome the wounds left as a result of the twelve-year civil conflict. Some wounds are still too fresh in the memories of some Salvadorans, and this may have been evident after a statue of Romero in San Salvador was reportedly vandalized.
Another murder Salvadoran Catholic figure could also receive beatification in the near future:
On Wednesday, the church announced it had begun beatification proceedings for Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande, who was killed, apparently by security forces, in 1977…
Grande, known as "Father Tilo," worked in the poorest parts of the country, organizing base communities that were viewed as a threat by local landowners.
Video Source – YouTube user Rome Reports (Video uploaded on August 2014).
Thirteen priests were killed in El Salvador between 1977 and 1989, and three American nuns were killed. The killings were believed to have been carried out by security forces and death squads.
Online Sources – ABC News; Fox News Latino; Catholic Herald; National Catholic Reporter