Romero to be beatified 'quickly'
Pope Francis has cleared the path for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. On the plane back from his visit to South Korea, he described Romero, who was murdered in 1980, as “a man of God" and said that he hoped to be able to declare him ‘blessed’.
"There are no doctrinal problems,” he told journalists, “and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly."
Archbishop Romero denounced the right-wing death squads that operated in El Salvador in the 1970s and the oppression against the poor, calling for an end to all political violence. Some 75,000 people were killed in the country’s civil war, which began in 1980 and ended in 1992 with a UN-brokered peace agreement. Romero specifically denounced the persecution of members of the Catholic Church who worked on behalf of the poor, especially the six Jesuits murdered in November 1979 whom he described as “martyrs”. In his weekly sermons which were broadcast each Sunday, he listed disappearances, tortures and murders, as did his diocesan weekly paper Orientacion.
Romero's episcopal motto was "to be of one mind with the Church," a phrase he took from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. His adviser in El Salvador was a Jesuit priest, Fr Rafael Moreno SJ.
The archbishop was shot dead while celebrating Mass in San Salvador on 24 March 1980, aged 62. No-one has ever been convicted in connection with his murder but El Salvador’s then President Mauricio Funes made an official apology in 2010, saying that the archbishop was a victim of right-wing death squads "who unfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration or participation of state agents".
Romero is considered to be an unofficial patron saint of El Salvador, with Catholics referring to him as "San Romero". The cause for his beatification has been led by Julian Filochowski who is a member of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network and Chair of the Romero Trust. He met the archbishop in 1978 when a British Parliamentary Human Rights Group nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. The blood-stained vestments that Archbishop Romero was wearing at the time of his assassination are being restored by Jan Graffius, the curator of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Speaking this morning from San Salvador where she is working with the Romero Trust, Jan said: "It is wonderful news and will bring so much joy, comfort and hope to the people of El Salvador - they have waited long enough."
Main photo: Jan Graffius at the tomb of Archbishop Romero in San Salvador, August 2014.
The photo on the right shows Julian Filochowski (in light shirt) with Archbishop Romero and Fr Moreno (far left) in 1978.