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Salvadoran pilgrimage to mark centennial of Blessed Romero’s birth

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By Catholic News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Salvadorans plan to walk more than 90 miles in three days to mark the centennial of Blessed Oscar Romero’s birth.

People participate in a late-March procession to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the killing of Blessed Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador. A pilgrimage to celebrate the slain archbishop's 100th birthday will be held Aug. 11-13, with pilgrims walking from San Salvador to Ciudad Barrios, where he was born. (CNS photo/Rodigro Sura, EPA)

People participate in a late-March procession to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the killing of Blessed Oscar Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador. A pilgrimage to celebrate the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday will be held Aug. 11-13, with pilgrims walking from San Salvador to Ciudad Barrios, where he was born. (CNS photo/Rodigro Sura, EPA)

Participants will leave the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador Aug. 11 and are scheduled to arrive in Ciudad Barrios, the eastern city where Blessed Romero was born, Aug. 13.

The pilgrimage, “Caminando hacia la cuna del Profeta” (“Walking toward the prophet’s birthplace”), will go through four dioceses — San Salvador, San Vicente, Santiago de Maria and San Miguel.

Blessed Romero was born Aug. 15, 1917, and that centennial date will be marked by a Mass at San Salvador’s cathedral. Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzatti of Santiago, Pope Francis’ special envoy to the celebration, will be the main celebrant.

Masses also are scheduled in other parts of the country. On Aug. 12, in the western Santa Ana diocese, Archbishop Leon Kalenga Badikebele, apostolic nuncio to El Salvador, will deliver the homily at a commemorative Mass, while Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, a close friend of Blessed Romero, is scheduled to give a presentation on the archbishop’s life and work.

When it announced the activities July 31, the Salvadoran bishops’ conference stated that, as far back as three years ago, it “invited all the worshippers, Salvadorans and of the world, to prepare for this centennial to remember Blessed Romero as a man, a pastor and a martyr.”

The murdered priest was beatified May 23, 2015, in San Salvador. In a letter to the gathering, read before an estimated 250,000 people gathered for the event, Pope Francis described Blessed Romero as “a voice that continues to resonate.”

Ordained April 4, 1942, in Rome, the Salvadoran religious leader was appointed archbishop of San Salvador Feb. 23, 1977, and was gunned down after Mass at a hospital chapel March 24, 1980, a day after a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey what he described as God’s order and stop carrying actions of repression.

The archbishop’s March 30 funeral at the cathedral, attended by more than 200,000 mourners, was interrupted by gunfire that left 30-50 people dead.

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Pope Francis recognizes martyrdom of Archbishop Romero

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — After decades of debate within the church, Pope Francis formally recognized that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed “in hatred of the faith” and not for purely political reasons. Pope Francis signed the decree Feb. 3, recognizing as martyrdom the March 24, 1980, assassination of Archbishop Romero in a San Salvador hospital chapel as he celebrated Mass. The decree clears the way for the beatification of Archbishop Romero. The postulator or chief promoter of his sainthood cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was scheduled to brief the press Feb. 4 about the cause.

People look at a painting of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero at the cathedral in San Salvador Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezasi, Reuters)

People look at a painting of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero at the cathedral in San Salvador Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Jose Cabezasi, Reuters)

Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993, but was delayed for years as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith studied his writings, amid wider debate over whether he had been killed for his faith or for taking political positions against Salvadoran government and against the death squads that were operating in his country.

As head of the San Salvadoran Archdiocese from 1977 until his death, his preaching grew increasingly strident in defense of the country’s poor and oppressed.

Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2007 that the archbishop was “certainly a great witness of the faith” who “merits beatification, I do not doubt.” But he said some groups had complicated the sainthood cause by trying to co-opt the archbishop as a political figure.

Seven years later, Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, told reporters that “for me, Romero is a man of God.” However, he said at the time, “the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

During his general audience Jan. 7, Pope Francis quoted words that Archbishop Romero had spoken at the funeral Mass of a priest assassinated by Salvadoran death squads: “We must all be willing to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor.”

Although not seen as exercising any pressure to move the cause forward, St. John Paul II made it a point of praying at Archbishop Romero’s tomb in the San Salvador cathedral during visits to the city in 1983 and again in 1996. During his first visit, he told people gathered in the cathedral, “Within the walls of this cathedral rest the mortal remains of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a zealous pastor whose love of God and service to his brothers and sisters led to the very sacrifice of his life in a violent way as he celebrated the sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

When Pope John Paul returned 13 years later, he told the people that he wanted to pray again at the tomb of Archbishop Romero, “brutally assassinated while he offered the sacrifice of the Mass.” The pope said he was pleased that the archbishop’s memory “continues to live among you.”

An official decree of martyrdom removes the beatification requirement of a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession.

Generally, a miracle after beatification would still be needed for canonization.

The same day that Pope Francis formally recognized Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom, he also signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of two Polish Conventual Franciscans and an Italian missionary priest who were murdered by Shining Path guerrillas in Peru in 1991. Franciscan Fathers Michal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Father Alessandro Dordi, a diocesan priest from Bergamo, were killed in separate incidents in August 1991. Dates for the beatification of Archbishop Romero and the Peru martyrs were not announced immediately.

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