Another Reflection on 40th Anniversary of Oscar Romero’s Assassination

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero (now Saint Romero) has been a personal saint for this Protestant (Presbyterian) since 1989, and I was blessed to be able to attend the 20th and 30th anniversary commemorations of his 1980 brutal assassination and lament I was unable to attend the 40th anniversary this March 24th.[1]

A moving reflection on the 40th anniversary has been provided by Carlos Colorado, the author of Eminem Doctrin, a blog about Romero’s teachings, and Super Martyrio, a blog advocating since 2006 for Romero’s canonization that in fact happened in 2018.[2] Here is what Colorado said.

“In March 2000 I was in El Salvador for what was then the 20th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination. . . . At a reception in a trendy boarding house in western San Salvador, I brashly suggested to the guests that Romero could become El Salvador’s Socrates—who was forced to drink poison by fervid Athenians, but was later embraced by the city as its most quintessential son. It fell to the late, legendary NCR [National Catholic Reporter] correspondent Gary MacEóin to let me down gently, explaining that the entrenched hostility toward Romero from the powerful meant that he would be persona non grata to the political establishment indefinitely.”

“Of course, MacEóin was right about the elites; Romero is ‘not a saint of their devotion’—as the Salvadoran expression goes—to this day. But many things were already changing by the year 2000 and many more things have changed since, to make Romero’s remarkable rehabilitation possible. While Romero’s memory was suppressed in El Salvador during the 80s and 90s, it was kept alive abroad with glowing biographies and film portrayals, including Oliver Stone’s ‘Salvador’ (1986) and the modest indie pic “Romero” (1989).[3] In 1990, the church opened its sainthood investigation, but it seemed as if, for the rest of the decade, that project was shelved.”

“While Romero’s sainthood file gathered dust at the Vatican, on the streets his image was ascendant, with larger and larger commemorations of his March 24 anniversary each year, not only in San Salvador, but also in London and Rome. Things began to change in official circles in El Salvador in 2004, when Tony Saca, who had been an altar boy for Romero, was elected president. Although a member of the party founded by the man thought to have ordered Romero’s assassination, Saca petitioned Pope Benedict XVI to permit Romero’s sainthood cause to advance. But the real sea change came with the 2009 election of Mauricio Funes, the first left-wing president, who promised to make Romero the moral compass for his government. Funes named a new traffic artery after Romero, renamed the airport after Romero, and installed a heroic painting of Romero in the presidential mansion’s great hall.”

“Perhaps the largest transformation occurred in 2015, when Romero was beatified in El Salvador, showing the country how admired he was when hundreds of thousands turned out for the large-scale spectacle.[4] The church made a concerted effort then to educate the population about Romero. Many read his homilies and learned about his actions and actual views for the first time, often refuting what they had heard in official disinformation. There were many who actually believed Romero had materially assisted the guerrillas, supplying arms and openly espousing Marxist propaganda. The publicity campaign and educational effort that accompanied the beatification helped to blunt extreme views.”

“Ultimately, Gary MacEóin was right, though, that Salvadorans would not be ready to buy into Romero’s message. With all of the 40th anniversary commemorations, including an emblematic candlelit street procession, cancelled due to Coronavirus, this anniversary will be very reminiscent of the first ten years when Romero memorials were banned. This year, instead of public memorials, Romero devotees are being asked to light candles at home. Indeed, it appears that in El Salvador, Romero is “hidden in plain sight.” That is, he is everywhere: his name is at the airport, on the roadway artery, and his image is in the presidential state room and in street murals all over the country. But the current generation, including the new millennial president, find the most universal Salvadoran a stranger they do not know.”

“In a sense, the muted Romero commemoration will be the most faithful to the spirit of the man. Just when it seemed he was in danger of becoming “another little wooden saint” (as activists feared he would become), Romero is again associated with austerity, sacrifice and restraint. I suspect he would not want it any other way.”

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[1] Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero (Now Saint Romero),dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 24, 2020)   See also Remembering Oscar Romero in Film, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 15, 2011)(20th anniversary); list of posts in the “Oscar Romero” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: EL SALVADOR.

[2] Colorado, Muted 40th Romero anniversary recalls the early days, El Salvador Perspectives (Mar. 23, 2020).

[3]  See Remembering Oscar Romero in Film, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 14, 2011).

[4]  See Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero To Be Beatified on May 23, 2015, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 13, 2015); The Canonization of Oscar Romero, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 15, 2018).

 

Additional Details About Future Beautification of Archbishop Romero

On the morning of February 3, 2015, the Roman Catholic Church’s commission of cardinals unanimously confirmed the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero and that same afternoon Pope Francis did the same. February 3 is also the day that Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. [1]

The date of the beatification is being determined by the Vatican, but the place will be the Salvador del Mundo (Savior of the World) monument and plaza in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

Super Martyrio, a layman’s blog devoted to the beatification and canonization of Romero, asserts that the determination of Romero’s martyrdom is significant for the following reasons:

  1. Archbishop Romero represents total fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church.
  2. Archbishop Romero is emblematic of the “New Martyrs”.
  3. Archbishop Romero is a model of holiness.
  4. Archbishop Romero is a peacemaker.
  5. Archbishop Romero embodies a coherent Christianity
  6. Archbishop Romero challenges us to be a Church that goes forth into the world.
  7. Archbishop Romero is a guide for the “preferential option for the poor”.
  8. Archbishop Romero challenged all parties to work together for the common good.
  9. Archbishop Romero is a great preacher.
  10. Archbishop Romero is recognized beyond the Church.

Great News! Muchas gracias, Super Martyrio, for your constant and excellent work on this most important cause!

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[1] This post is based upon Tim’s El Salvador Blog, St. Romero of the Americas (Feb. 3, 2015)(this blog post also has links to sources about Romero); Super Martyrio, At last, a speedy approval for Romero (Feb. 3, 2015)(extensive discussion of the reasons for the long delay in determining martyrdom); Super Martyrio, Ten reasons Romero matters (Feb. 3, 2015). 

Progress on the Vatican’s Canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero

Archbishop Oscar Romero
Archbishop Oscar Romero

This blog has made many posts about martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Therefore, this blogger is pleased with the news of progress on Romero’s canonization from Super Martyrio Blog that is devoted to obtaining that canonization. The following is a re-posting of the May 20, 2014, post by the Super Martyrio Blog.  Thank you, Super Martyrio for this good news. 

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The current Archbishop of San Salvador, Msg. José Luis Escobar Alas, confirmed this Sunday that in his May 9 audience with Pope Francis, he and three Salvadoran Bishops accompanying him discussed the canonization process of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero with the Pontiff.  Archbishop Alas described Pope Francis as happy and enthusiastic about the cause and he confirmed the fact, first reported by Super Martyrio, that the Salvadorans are inviting the Holy Father to El Salvador for the canonization. “What we are thinking, what we are asking the Lord,” Msgr. Alas said, “is the prompt canonization of Monseñor Romero, and that Pope Francis come and that it will be here” [in El Salvador].
The Archbishop reported that, based on the Pope’s reaction, “I would say that he accepted with pleasure, but we did not talk about timing, because the cause is still in course.
However, the statement fell short of the huge expectations created when Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez intimated last Sunday that there would be a big announcement, bearing exciting news from Alas, leading many to infer that the church was about to announce Romero’s imminent beatification.  The latest excitement would not constitute the first false report about an impending beatification from those close to the process.  In September 2005, the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia suggested to Vatican reporter John Allen that he was “within a month” of securing Romero’s beatification.  Paglia has remained comparatively more tight-lipped this time, not making any statements since reporting last year that Pope Francis had released a hold over the process.
Alas reported that the Pope “demonstrated his happiness, his approval,” of Romero’s beatification, “but he did not provide a date, we understand, out of respect for the very process,” Alas said.Additional details about the Salvadoran delegation’s activities in Rome were revealed last week in the Salvadoran Church’s weekly newspaper, Orientación.  In a letter to the editor from Alas in Rome, the newspaper revealed that the four Salvadoran bishops who traveled to Italy for the recent canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II had met with Paglia ahead of meeting with Pope Francis.  “The whole meeting was on the issue of the beatification of Archbishop Romero,” Alas said in his letter.  “Archbishop Paglia spoke to us about his knowledge about Archbishop Romero, about the process, and about his activities as postulator.  He was very happy with us.”The ecclesial weekly also disclosed the novelty of the Salvadoran bishops’ letter expressing unanimous support for Romero’s beatification.  Super Martyrio had previously reported that such a letter had already been sent to the Vatican.  However, the previous letter was sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and, the diocesan newspaper reported, the bishops conference had recently concluded that the previous step had been legally insufficient as a matter of canon law, and that it was necessary to direct a letter to the Pope himself.  To further bolster the gesture, the bishops decided to deliver it in person.

During his Sunday press conference on May 18, Archbishop Alas also disclosed that the Pope had told the Salvadoran bishops during their meeting that he had been similarly invited to visit El Salvador by President-Elect Salvador Sánchez Cerén when the two met in April,  also regarding Archbishop Romero’s canonization cause.