Church prepares for Romero's beatification

Final preparations are underway in El Salvador for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Among the British representatives who will be at the ceremony of Saturday will be Julian Filochowski, the Chair of the Oscar Romero Trust, and the curator of Stonyhurst College, Jan Graffius. The Jesuit parish of the Immaculate Conception (Farm Street) in London will be celebrating the occasion at the weekend, when it receives a relic of the newly beatified Archbishop. Part of the vestments that were worn by Romero when he was assassinated while saying Mass on 24 March 1980 are being loaned to the church by Mrs Graffius and Stonyhurst College.

Pope Francis officially declared on 3 February 2015 that Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr's death, 'killed in hatred of the Faith'. At the press conference confirming Romero’s martyrdom, it was also announced that the cause for canonisation of his friend, the Jesuit Rutillio Grande SJ, who was assassinated on his way to celebrate Mass in El Paisnal in the Aguilares parish, had been opened.

Relics of Latin America's martyrs 

Since 2007, Jan Graffius has been involved in a conservation project in El Salvador, helping to preserve the vestments Archbishop Romero was wearing when he was shot and items belonging to the Jesuit martyrs of the University of Central America. At the 6.15pm Mass on Sunday 24 May, a relic that Mrs Graffius was given by the custodians of Romero’s vestments will be displayed for the first time at Farm Street Church. The homily will be preached by Fr Michael Kirwan SJ who is Head of Theology at Heythrop College and who has a particular interest in political theology.

“The relic is a piece of Romero's alb with his blood,” Mrs Graffius explains. “It is mounted in a wooden triptych painted by the Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort, which has the words of Romero’s last sermon, and the readings of the Mass he was saying when he was killed. The triptych belongs to Stonyhurst, the gift of Rhetoric 2011.”

Julian Filochowski describes Archbishop Romero as “utterly orthodox and yet utterly radical”, who embodies a faith commitment that is inseparable from the pursuit of justice. “We could say that the Jesuit slogan, ‘the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice’, which pithily encapsulates Romero’s ministry, has been beatified too - in Romero,” he says.

The beatification ceremony on 23 May will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

Read Julian Filochowski's blog post about Oscar Romero and his Jesuit influences.

Photo: The chapel where Romero was assassination in 1980. The inscription reads: 'At this altar, Monseñor Oscar A Romero offered his life to God for the poor'. Credit: CAFOD