“With Pope Francis, the time of Romero has come!”

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB with fellow Salesians
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB with fellow Salesians

On Thursday, 1 October, over 200 people gathered in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark for the Annual Archbishop Romero Lecture from Salesian cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.

Organised by the Archbishop Romero Trust, the lecture seeks to keep alive the inspiration of the martyred archbishop of San Salvador who was beatified by a Vatican envoy before huge crowds in El Salvador this May.

Cardinal Maradiaga proclaimed, “with Pope Francis, the time of Romero has come!”

The Cardinal is coordinator of the advisors Pope Francis has asked to review the workings of the Curia and so was ideally placed to speak on the lecture’s theme “From Romero to Francis: The joy and the tensions of becoming a poor church with the poor”.

Cardinal Rodriguez met Blessed Oscar Romero twice and recalls, “my encounters with Romero grew more deeply from the day of his death”.

Soon after Romero’s martyrdom and then an auxiliary bishop, he was sent to the border between Guatemala and El Salvador. With the intensity of the civil war in El Salvador increasing, Rodriguez said, “my first students, and my children as bishop, were the 20,000 refugees fleeing into Honduras from the warring country: I was learning about Oscar Romero from who those who had just escaped.”

The Cardinal’s moving lecture reflected on how the preferential option for the poor is not new but the cry of the poor has to be heard anew in each generation.

Looking at the lives of Pope Francis, Blessed Oscar Romero and Jesus, the Cardinal noted that in each life they lived alongside those living in poverty, knew them, were friends with them and loved them and each of them naturally lives out the preferential option for the poor.

The Cardinal sees that Pope Francis, “didn’t make the option for the poor from his lips, but from the bottom of his heart”.

The Cardinal recalled the Final Document from the 2007 Latin American Bishop’s Conference (in which then Cardinal Bergoglio was closely involved) and reiterated its pastoral guidelines as a challenge to all Catholics and “as a source of enlightenment and encouragement to them for fruitful pastoral and evangelizing work in the future”.

Following huge applause, the Cardinal then sang a song he has written following Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” entitled “The Continental Mission for a Missionary Church” with the chorus, “Poverty engulfs us all but it has a solution; the joy of the Gospel calls us to mission and, with Pope Francis, mercy and blessings”.

Finally the Cardinal pointed to the Romero Cross in St George’s Cathedral housing relics of Blessed Oscar Romero and said, “that cross is the best honour for Romero, because he was a man of the cross”.